When it comes to an elephant and her food – nothing stands in the way.
These pictures capture the astonishing moment a herd of African elephants gatecrash through the reception of a safari lodge, hoping to snaffle some free lunch.
Mfuwe Lodge in Zambia happens to have been built next to a mango tree that one family of pachyderms has always visited when the fruit ripens.
Every year, the paying guests at the lodge, located in Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park, make way for the return of this mischievous herd – led by a bossy matriarch, followed by her calves.
The moment was photographed by general manager of the lodge Ian Salisbury, 62, after he decided to capture the extraordinary event.
‘This is the very unusual, and quite unique phenomenon of an annual elephant trek through the lodge’s reception/lobby area,’ explains Ian, who is originally from Bacup, Lancashire.
‘From late October every year, families of elephants visit the lodge grounds to feed on the fruit of a ‘wild mango’ (Cordyla africana) tree which grows in the lodge courtyard.
‘Whilst the elephants can access this tree by a variety of routes, they often choose to take a shortcut through the actual building.
‘They climb the steps at the lodge entrance and trundle through the lobby, giving the lodge guests a real treat with their antics.
‘Whilst the tree is fruiting, through November and into December, the elephants visit at all hours of day and night.
Taking the trek to and from the tree at least once a day, the elephants usually take the journey in herds of three to six.
Mr Salisbury explains: ‘There is usually great excitement when the elephants walk though, but we try to keep everyone calm and allow them to best view.
‘The elephants are usually very relaxed and pay little attention to people.
‘On occasions they have demonstrated how relaxed they are by falling asleep!
‘We have had one mother elephant bring her new born calf to the lodge when only two days old, that same baby is now four years old, but still confidently returns each year, which is great to see.’
With a 10 ft tall reception, the lodge can only accommodate the female and younger male elephants, as well as the calves.
Although, one regular large bull, nicknamed ‘George’ by the lodge, manages to squeeze his way through the lobby every year.
Mr Salisbury added: ‘This unusual behaviour demonstrates a trust of humans that is quite rare in the wild.
‘These elephants are by no means tame, and past generations have suffered from illegal hunting and poaching, but their behaviour clearly shows that mother elephants teach their offspring about the world and pass on their behaviour traits.’
‘For most of the year the elephants wander over a wide area, but the same elephants return each year as soon as the fruit is ready.’
Read more at Elephant World category