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Photographer's Note

The Chobe National Park in north-east Botswana has one of the largest concentrations of elephants in the world – currently estimated to be about 120,000. In the dry season they congregate around the Chobe and Linyanti Rivers in the northern part of the park, and then in the rainy season they migrate to the pans in the southern part of the park – a distance of about 200 km.

Taking a boat along the Chobe River in the dry season you will see hundreds and hundreds of elephants along the banks, on the floodplains and in the water. There are so many elephants that after a few hours of taking photographs, you don’t even bother to lift the camera when you see another herd.

Much of the vegetation in the national park has been destroyed by the elephants, so many ask whether there are too many elephants in Chobe and whether they should be culled. This is a very controversial issue because some academic studies have shown that the area south of the river was a treeless plain in the 1870s, and it was only after ivory hunters killed all the elephants did the woodland establish itself.

Then as the elephant population built up again from just a few thousand in the early 1900s to the large numbers today, the woodland reverted to shrubland, but some say this is due more to the antelopes eating the tree seedlings than it is the elephants damaging the mature trees.

And then there is the issue of culling – a very emotive one. As elephant numbers go up, the amount of vegetation declines affecting the habitat for other animal species. Elephants have family structures like humans, so making decisions about whether it is necessary to kill herds of elephants is a difficult one. But at some point it may have to be done because, if unchecked, the population will continue to increase at about 5 per cent a year.

Those responsible for managing the national parks have to decide on the right balance between the number of elephants that the park can support and the damage that the elephants do to the environment. It is all part of the conservation management of biodiversity and involves some difficult decisions.

PP: Adjusted levels, shadows/highlights, saturation and contrast, then USM @ 200%. I selected this shot out of dozens of different frames because I liked the inclusion of the dust being kicked up by some of the elephants walking down to the river. I thought this made the shot a little more dynamic than the others that looked too static. I originally edited a panoramic shot of the riverbank to post here, which does give a better perspective of the large number of elephants that congregate along this river during the dry season, but it didn’t look so impressive in the thumbnail. However, I’ve posted the panoramic crop to the workshop if you would like to see that as well.

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Additional Photos by David Astley (banyanman) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1237 W: 108 N: 2568] (7789)
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