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An elephant keeps buffalo in line in Zimbabwe


March 9, 1997
Web posted at: 10:58 p.m. EST (0358 GMT)

IMIRE GAME RESERVE, Zimbabwe (CNN) -- Nzou is an elephant, and her name even means elephant, but she appears a little forgetful of the fact.

It may be hard to fault her, though. Nzou has been the chosen leader of a herd of 22 buffalo for nearly 20 years. Even the rangers are at a loss to explain why the buffalo chose Nzou as their leader.

Elephant and buffaloes at a watering hole
movie icon (21 sec. /896K QuickTime movie)

"Perhaps she thinks that she's a buffalo, or perhaps the buffalo think they are elephants" is the only explanation a game keeper could come up with.


But the relationship between the herd and Nzou has not always been so peaceful.

Over the years, 14 young male buffalo have challenged Nzou for the top job and died in combat. She also killed a young elephant introduced at one point to keep her company.

water elephant

But other animals, including people, appear safe. Nzou protects the buffalo and the game wardens. Her keeper even owes his life to her, after she stopped an angry buffalo from pounding him.

Nzou seems to like her unusual lot. Elephants communicate over long distances with each other and, according to rangers, other elephants know Nzou is in the game reserve. But she shows no sign of leaving her herd of buffalo for her own kind.

And to stay on the safe side, wardens are working to keep four young male elephants in the park out of Nzou's range.


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