An elephant’s penchant for mopane

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You may have heard the mighty crack of the mopane tree as the bull elephant pushes it over to gain access to those last fresh tasty leaves. Or seen the litter of leaf and bark debris from the feast of the fallen, or perhaps observed the fresh gouge marks in the tree trunk still oozing sap after the passage of tusks. However until today I had never witnessed a killing zone quite like this.

On a recent training walk with Luke at Banoka Bush Camp, we came across a fascinating sight. At first glance it appeared to be just another section of bark removed from a large mopane tree, the edges rimmed with solidified sap looking rather like icing sugar.

But closer inspection revealed something far more interesting. A trap for unsuspecting wildlife, drawn perhaps to the scent of fresh sap or the death struggles of others? A wasp here, a millipede there, a praying mantis over there and the bizarre figurine of a stick insect, frozen in death. All trapped and encased in crystallized sap.

Dangling in the wind, looking like crystal chandeliers, we found a spider web adorned with sap. Perhaps the spider encased for eternity.

Who knows how many more unsuspecting organisms will be trapped here before the tree heals itself? Amazing how one animal’s feast can result in another’s demise.

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By Anthony Bennet

Anthony heads the guide training and assessing department in Botswana for Wilderness Safaris. He has a keen interest in nature photography, birdlife and animal behaviour. Ant has done epic trails through some of the most pristine bush around.

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