Early October our guide Andrew Mwanza was on a game drive & walk with his guests, staying at our remotest camp Island Bush Camp. While driving near the Luangwa River they came across a carcass of a dead elephant. This is always a strange sighting, and also one that needs to be reported to the park authorities (Department of National Parks & Wildlife). As always when doing bush walk, Andrew was accompanied by an armed scout (in this case Peter Chisenga) and the DPNW was alerted quickly. The carcass has already been fed on by hyenas.
Andrew and the scout came out of the vehicle to inspect the carcass and then they realised that there was something else dead UNDER the elephant! A crocodile! This made the sighting even more special and certainly will remain a mystery as to how it all happened!
Both the elephant and the crocodile seem to be fairly young (teens). It is not clear if the elephant was previously injured but we also called in the team at Conservation South Luangwa (CSL) who came down to inspect the carcass along with the team of DPNW. No trace of metal was detected (snare or bullet) therefore the cause of death could not be allocated to human wrongdoing. The tusks of the elephant were intact but had to be removed, as this is standard procedure on dead elephant across Africa in order to avoid this ivory to be stolen and sold on illegal market. DPNW keeps stock of ivory to be later destroyed.
Our best guess as to what really happen is that the elephant was probably weak or injured (maybe from a tentative attack by lions) and came to the river to drink or even cross it when the crocodile thought it would investigate (attracted by blood maybe). The elephant must have been in a poor state already and it seems from the position he was found in that the tried to climb the bank of the river, and probably collapsed. The unfortunate crocodile being at the wrong place at the wrong time got squashed in the process.
But this will remain one of South Luangwa’s true mystery. No one was there to witness the event, so any interpretation can be imagined. What is sure is that this provided for a hearty meal for hyenas and dozens of vultures for a few days.