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Namibia's Desert Adapted Elephants


Kaokoland is a harsh and arid area which forms the extreme north western corner of Namibia. The region harbors the only elephants in the world which have become perfectly adapted to desert life.

The usually dry river courses that run from east to west across Kaokoland are responsible for the existence of the pachyderms in this dry and inhospitable ecosystem. These riverbeds contain specimens of Acacia albida and Acacia erioloba as well as other drought-resistant plants on which the elephants browse. The dry riverbeds house sources of subterranean water, which the elephants access by digging holes in the sand with their front feet.

Desert Adapted Elephants in Damaraland - Luxury Namibian Safaris

Biologically, the elephants of Kaokoland are fascinating ecological puzzles. Their feces are virtually devoid of moisture, indicating that maximum water extraction has taken place in the digestive tract. This contrasts markedly with elephants elsewhere. The microbial population of the desert elephant's digestive system is equally specific and highly effective in breaking down dry, rough browse material into available energy for the animals.

Physically, desert-adapted elephants are characterized by long and relatively slender legs, with very large feet. The seemingly disproportionate foot size enables the elephants to traverse virtually impossible terrain, and research has shown that some of the Kaokoland elephants cross at least 56 miles of desert sand between their nearest sources of food and water.

View these magnificent beasts in their spectacular natural habitat at the remote Skeleton Coast Camp, as well as Damaraland Camp.

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