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Elephant Blog

This rarely spotted bull was named after the Mahlati Stream, a tributary of the Ntshivana, situated in the north of the Kruger National Park, South Africa. Mahlati was also the name of a chief who lived close to the stream.

Mahlati was first seen at the Mahlati windmill in 1991 and 1992 at the Tsumane windmill by researcher Keith Begg. He was not a well known bull and was rarely seen by guests.

Elephants walk on tip-toe and we seem to think it was somehow apparent with Mahlati. The animal’s weight rests on the tip of each toe and on a fibrous ‘cushion’ of fatty and connective tissues which acts as a shock absorber. This material absorbs sound, enabling these massive creatures to walk almost silently.

The surface of the foot is very flexible and sensitive, adapting naturally to any irregularities of terrain. The soles of the feet are very thick, horny and superficially cracked. Trackers can use these unique ‘footprint’ markings to help identify individual animals. The front feet are larger and more rounded than the hind feet, which are smaller and oval.

Text: South African National Parks
Photo copyright: MJ Vermooten