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Elephants Check in at the Mfuwe Lodge [EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW] [VIDEO]

Sep 29, 2015 02:13 PM EDT

Frequent visitors at Zambia's Mfuwe Lodge don't need to make a reservation -- the hotel expects that these elephants will stop by anytime between late October and mid-December each year for a snack at the ripened mango tree out back.

As it happens, the safari lodge is built around that large wild mango (Cordyla africana) tree. Instead of going around, the elephants use the lodge's convenient steps to shorten the trip between them and some of their favorite delicious and nutritious fruits.

Mfuwe Lodge is located in the game area of the South Luangwa, and at least three generations of one particular elephant family have been regular guests at the lodge for years, according to The Bushcamp Company, which owns the lodge.

Dr. Vicki Fishlock is a resident scientist at the Amboseli Trust for Elephants (ATE) who specializes in the study of leadership and negotiation among elephant families in the face of risk. She also focuses on long-term social dynamics of elephants observed in Amboseli.

While Fishlock has not directly interacted with the elephants in South Luangwa, her experiences do shed light on elephant behaviors related to this annual marvel of the herd marching through the lobby of the Mfuwe Lodge.

Can you explain migration patterns of elephants?

In general, elephants must move over the course of a year to find enough water and food -- just like people, elephants need a balanced diet and they often travel to find remembered preferred food items.

The elephants visit the Mfuwe Lodge between late October and mid-December to eat from a mango tree on the lodge's property. What is an elephant's attraction to mangoes? Are mangoes a staple of their diet?

Elephants build huge bodies from plant material. Like humans, they are predisposed to discriminate energy-rich foods that taste sweet. Elephants eat wild mangoes where they grow, but cultivated varieties are much sweeter, so taste even better.

Do the steps through the lodge pose any problems for the elephants?

No, they walk down them! Elephants are incredibly flexible and often have to negotiate steep river banks, gullies and even mountains. Across Africa, elephant paths traverse many types of habitats.

Can you explain the hierarchy of elephant herds and the numbers they travel in?

This is not an easy question to answer. Elephants are endlessly flexible in their social groupings.  

I also have a few myth-buster questions: Do elephants really have good senses of memory? Do they really love peanuts?

[They have] wonderful social and spatial memories. Elephant Memories talks about this. I don't really know about peanuts -- I suppose they should because they are nutritious.

A video of the elephants cutting through the Mfuwe Lodge can be seen on YouTube

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

-Follow Samantha on Twitter @Sam_Ashley13

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