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food availability drawing back the various species until the cycle is complete and stocking levels are at maximum and a drought or overgrazing occurs to start the whole process off once again.

Elephants which live in area of almost permanent desert like Namibia very rarely knock large trees down possibly they are aware of the consequences of their actions in these areas of almost permanent drought. They will and do walk many miles to find water sometimes going for three or four days without drinking. They also move about even when there is limited browse available almost as though they are aware that trees need time to recover. Savannah elephants on the contrary can be very destructive turning up trees even when there is much browse available locally. Elephants shape habitat more than any other animal, even a single footprint can change the environment. A footprint from a large elephant makes a depression in the soil deep enough to hold water and the compression of the soil beneath the print prevents the water from sinking into the soil easily. When it eventually rains the print will fill with water and will become a very small puddle. As the rains end this puddle will provide drinking water for a few days for the local game and may be used by animal such as warthog to wallow in, this in turn removes more soil and mud as the animal carries it away on its back and the small print becomes slightly deeper and forms a pan. The rains appear again next season and the small pan fills up once again, this time it not only attracts warthog but a young elephant passing by also takes a little mud bath and carries off more mud and so the process accelerates until many different sized animals in increasing numbers are using the pan or by now small pool for wallowing, drinking and cooling off. The next stage of the process then begins. Mammals attract birds because where there are animals there are always flies and insects following them. Birds will fly in from other wet areas maybe containing fish and more importantly fish eggs and aquatic insect larvae. These can become entangled on the legs of the birds and will be deposited in the new pool by the birds. Visiting insects such as dragon and mayfly will lay their eggs in the water and the seeds of sedges , bull rushes and other aquatic

plants will be blown in on the wind or arrive on the back of some animal that has just wallowed in the next pool or river in the area. Fish eggs hatch, insects breed, plant seeds germinate, animals such as catfish (known locally as barbels) terrapins and crocodiles will migrate from other areas and when deep enough maybe even hippo will arrive. So a major change to the immediate environment has occurred with all the benefits that it provides and all from a single elephant footprint! Isn’t nature wonderful!

So think on whilst on safari if you happen to be on foot and don’t forget- take only photo’s ,leave only footpints-but step lightly you might just turn Africa into a huge swamp!