Meet Our Ecosystem Engineers

Meet Our Ecosystem Engineers

29 Apr 2023

Bakari and Moketsi spend the majority of their days roaming the reserve in search of food, water and mud baths. These basic elephant behaviors are incredibly important to the environment they inhabit.  They are the ecosystem engineers of Indalu Game Reserve as they significantly influence the fauna and flora around them.

Bakari and Moketsi create an impact on their habitat through their ferocious feeding habits. They can consume an average of 200kg of vegetation each day. That's bucketloads of grasses, leaves, tree roots, bark, and seed pods!

As Bakari and Moketsi meander through the reserve, they help disperse plant and tree seeds through their dung. And here's the cool part: Elephant dung is rich in nutrients and moisture and acts as a fertiliser for seeds to germinate and flourish. Grasses, plants and saplings are established in new areas and provide new food for other herbivores like antelopes, zebras, giraffes as well as birds!

As the elephants knock down trees and push their way through thick vegetation, they create open spaces for other herbivores to find forage. They also make leafy branches accessible for smaller/shorter animal species and provide them with shelter and protection. Finally, their feeding habits prevent bush encroachment and promote a healthier balance between grasses, bushes and trees.  

But what about birds? Well, the seeds that Bakari and Moketsi disperse also benefit birds. As new plants grow, they attract insects and other invertebrates that birds can feed on. Additionally, the branches of the new trees provide nesting sites and shelter for birds. All of these factors help to enhance overall biodiversity!

Elephants love mud! Although they have thick skin, it is still very sensitive to sunburn and insect bites. Elephants enjoy digging and rolling in moist soil. This action helps create and maintain wallows. After heavy rainfall events, these wallows capture water. A wallow acts initially as a drinking hole for many animals and birds, and later on as a mud haven for elephants, rhinos and buffalo.  

Bakari and Moketsi also play an active role when it comes to fighting climate change. As they help grow new plants and maintain the balance of the ecosystem, they play a critical role in capturing and storing carbon dioxide. Plants are one of the best ways to capture carbon dioxide from the air, and these elephants are helping to make it happen.

It's fascinating to see how these gentle giants can have such a significant, far-reaching and diverse impact on the environment. It's no wonder they're considered ecosystem engineers. By dispersing seeds, fertilizing the land, and creating open spaces, Bakari and Moketsi are helping to maintain a healthy and thriving ecosystem for all animals. So next time you walk with Bakari and Moketsi, take a moment to remember just how important they are to the world around us!