We usually try to ascribe animal behaviour to survival mechanisms, like learning to hunt, establishing dominance or strengthening muscles. Sometimes though, they really are just having fun! This was certainly the case at Singita Pamushana in Zimbabwe recently, when field guide Jenny Hishin, observed a herd of elephants enjoying themselves in the cool waters of the Sosigi Dam. Here, she describes the amusing scene:
It was an absolute delight to watch! We were parked on the bridge as the sun was slipping below the tree-line, and the rest of the elephant bulls were grazing in the riverbed. Knowing we were the only safari vehicle out, we settled in for a good hour to enjoy the view. They splashed, sploshed, sprayed and snorkelled. The game was clear – the aim was to wrestle, then get behind your opponent and jump on his hindquarters, effectively dunking him. Meanwhile, a lone hippo in the background looked on, appearing rather nonplussed!
Elephants are excellent swimmers as their massive bodies give them enough buoyancy to float easily. They use all four legs to paddle and use their trunk like a snorkel. Research suggests that elephants are great at swimming because they could have evolved from mammals like the sea cows – dugongs and manatees. Elephants in Africa have been recorded to travel a distance of 48 kilometres across water, and also swimming for six hours continuously. Experts believe that the elephants that live in Sri Lanka are the progeny of elephants that swam from Southern India across the sea.