Guide Post: Dennis Liebenberg

Issue 6 (November 2010)

Guide and manager of The Etendeka Mountain Camp, Etendeka Conservancy, Dennis Liebenberg recalls the time he watched an incredible elephant family drama unfold.


The Etendeka Mountain Camp is hidden deep in the majestic basalt landscape of the Kunene Region, which is renowned for its precious populations of black rhino and desert adapted elephant…

“I was walking with a group of eleven guests up a long wooded valley not far from camp. I noticed a herd of eight elephants walking parallel to us on a flat hill to our left, about one kilometre away. As we watched them they started to ascend a winding path. The climb was a change in elevation of about 200 metres. As we continued our walk we were able to watch their progress up an incline of about one in three. We noticed a young cow with a very young calf lagging behind. The calf was having to struggle over rocks nearly as big as itself. Half way up the hill the calf gave up and lay down. The mother waited a while and then gave it a nudge with her foot. The calf stood up and continued slowly for another ten minutes and lay down again. The mother nudged it and it struggled to its feet, took a few more steps and lay down on the rocks. By this time the other elephants were near the top of the hill. The mother nudged it again and gave a high-pitched scream. There was no reaction from the calf. We were on our way back to camp and were watching the proceedings with binoculars. For a time we lost sight of the hill as we returned to camp but on the way we heard the mother scream again. At camp I set up a spotting scope and noticed the mother disappearing over the rim of the plateau. There was no sign of the calf. Through lunch we continued to watch the spot where we assumed the calf was lying and noticed a much bigger elephant slowly descending to the spot. An hour later it was making slow progress with the calf in front. Two hours later the calf made it to the top with much cheering from the camp.”

• For more details about Etendeka, go to

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