Gabon: Loango NP – Forest Elephants

At last, the wildlife part of this Africa trip begins – no more crowded cities with markets, trashy streets, and police with guns – just pure nature in a remote and beautiful spot of Gabon. Just the first evening game drive immediately took me face to face with the forest elephants – the third distinct species of elephants that exist in the world. First, it was one elephant that came from the forest (naturally!), then it was two, and very soon it was an elephant party. The forest elephant is smaller and darker then the African elephant that it resembles in shape, but genetically it’s actually closer to the Asian elephant and even closer to the extinct European species. They have dark brown skin and tusks that are much longer and straighter and thinner then other elephants – this is an adaptation for pushing through very dense forest vegetation (adult tusks can reach 1.5 meter or 5 feet long). The forest elephants have very strange human-like eyes – brown on white. Forest elephants have an extra toe. Gabon is the last remaining stand of the forest elephant – only about 60,000 left in the world and the populations in Congo are doomed for annihilation, over 72% of them have been killed in the last decade alone. Thankfully, Gabonese population of elephants is safe within the country’s vast national parks