He had developed a new type of radio collar that used little power, and that could continue transmitting for more than 12 months and be received at a range of ten miles. Tracking was done from tall, rotatable antennas atop sheer hills. He had trained rangers to record the bearings of each of his 20 or so collared elephants every three hours, day and night.
Locating his elephants from his stations, on foot, and by air, Rowan has built up the most detailed data ever compiled on continuous elephant movements. His most exciting result is apparent proof of a new level of elephant society, the "clan," which is beyond the family units and the kinship groups that Iain has found.
Rowan has clear evidence that as many as a hundred individuals sharing a common home range freely associate with each other, but not with individuals of a neighboring clan. He also discovered, as Iain did at Manyara, that large strung-out assemblages of elephants show extraordinary coordination of movement. They rumble to each other, and at times their communication seems almost telepathic.
Leaving the elephant clans of Rhodesia, we flew to South Africa, where the fate of most elephants was sealed a century ago by ivory and meat hunters. Today the only substantial elephant population, about 7,500, lives in the rigidly managed Kruger National Park, where excess animals are processed scientifically and hygienically in a huge abbatoir.
Two tiny herds also exist on the country’s southern shore. One is in the dense Knysna forest, which grows on steep V-shaped slopes. Here, on rare occasions, an elephant emerges from his hiding place and stands in a clear patch facing the sea, watching waves crash on pink rocks. These elephants, roaming a 100,000-acre forest reserve, are seldom seen. But from time to time, when they raid private farmland, they are shot and wounded or killed. The existence of this little group of elephants—probably no more than five today—hangs by the merest thread.
Another elephant enclave survives in the Addo Elephant National Park. Here separation of man from beast has allowed the elephants to recover. In 1954 a massive steel fence was completed to enclose the last 10 or 20 elephants. Since then they have increased rapidly, and they total more than 100 today. The historic conflict with man is over. Man and the elephant are mutually tolerant, separated from each other by steel barriers. From slaughter to strict preservation of a tiny fragment—this South African example may foreshadow the fate of most of Africa’s elephants.