Whilst driving around the Reserve, I have made an interesting observation regarding elephant utilization of Grewia spp. (Raisin bush).
During the dry winter months the breeding herds of elephants usually move off Ingwelala to range along the riparian areas. The bulls remain in the mopane veld during these times and by August partially feed on the raisin bushes, kicking and uprooting the raison bushes to predominantly ingest the roots.
I have noticed that many breeding herds, continuing to range on Ingwelala because of the water availability along the Nhlaralumi River. This provides easy access to riparian vegetation, but there is also considerable utilization of raisin bush. However, what I am seeing is that the breeding herds don’t uproot the plant, they prefer to feed off the stems and branches.
As management practices selective bush clearing of Grewia, could it be that that the breeding herds are “doing the veld a favour” and, by impacting on the Grewia, helping to “thin out” the bush and assist in maintaining a healthier balance between grass swards and woody communities?
This is a superficial observation, and in no way a scientific based statement, just a thought that I share with you. Only further observations in time will point towards the result and the natural drivers.
By John Llewellyn.