When most people picture African elephants, they imagine them in the savannah. But roughly one-third of the African elephant population lives in dense African rainforests far from lions and the veldt.
Deep in the Dzanga-Sangha Special Reserve, a herd of elephants congregated in what locals called the “village of elephants,” or Dzanga Bai. This space was a natural forest clearing, the perfect place for the elephants to meet.
But why were they coming out of their cover? “The forest provides all the food they need, so what is it that draws them out of the shadows?” wondered the narrator, Andrea Turkalo.
The clearing was home to a unique ingredient the elephants needed for their diet. The mud in this clearing had salts and volcanic rocks that would help neutralize toxins from rainforest leaves and bark.
“Generations of elephants have come here to prospect for these minerals and settle their stomachs,” explained Turkalo. Their method of searching for these materials involved using their trunk like a straw and blowing air into the mud.
As the mud swirled into the water, the elephants would drink the gritty water and receive all the necessary nutrients needed to ease their stomach pains. Stomach pains might not be the only reason elephants use these minerals.
Some scientists believe that these nutrients might help in growth and fertility. Whatever the reason, up to three thousand elephants visit Dzanga Bai every year. We still have a lot to learn when it comes to these unique forest elephants.