Very high fibre diet: Elephant on its back legs with trunk at full stretch to reach tree-top leaves
PUBLISHED: 09:17 EST, 14 September 2012 | UPDATED: 11:33 EST, 14 September 2012
It seems this elephant may be confused about his species as he was caught standing on his hind legs and feeding himself from the top branches of a tree – just like a giraffe.
The big animal performed the incredible act using his trunk to grab the juicy leaves in a picturesque forest in Zimbabwe.
This unusual behaviour has rarely been photographed but one lucky early-bird photographer caught three elephant as the sun rose over the UNESCO World Heritage site of Mana Pools.
This behaviour, normally attributed to giraffes, has made the Mana Pools elephants famous but it has rarely been seen on camera.
The group of elephants was composed of two young bulls called ‘askari’, which protect the older bull who teaches them the skills they need to reach the leaves in top of the trees.
South African photographer, Morkel Erasmus, 29, shot this unique action while following three elephant bulls on foot that he had seen the previous day.
Morkel said: ‘The trees in the alluvial forests are massive and even an elephant has a tough task to try and reach some of the juicy leaves.’
‘It was clear to us that the younger bulls could not yet master the skill of balancing on their hind legs, and that they were still ‘learning the ropes’ from the old master, who himself proved quite skilled in this area.
‘They protect him while he reaches the leaves. They are his eyes and ears as he grows old.
‘I couldn’t believe our fortune in witnessing this spectacle in this kind of light in such an open patch of forest.
Mr Erasmus spent two hour photographing the elephants and said the adrenaline filled morning was one of the highlights of his photographic career.
He said: ‘It is a pristine piece of Africa, one of the last really ‘wild’ places free from commercialisation and mankind’s excessive greed.
‘All that may change though as there is a current threat of heavy minerals mining in the area which will probably destroy the ecosystem.’
The site is located in the Lower Zambezi Valley, on the banks of the mighty Zambezi River, downstream from Victoria Falls and Lake Kariba.