Male elephant and calf wander into town in southern Guinea

Residents of Nzérékoré, Guinea, were surprised to see elephants come into their town. (Photo: Sekouba Beréte, Nouhan Sidibé.)
Residents of Nzérékoré, Guinea, were surprised to see elephants come into their town. (Photo: Sekouba Beréte, Nouhan Sidibé.)

A male elephant and his calf wandered into Nzérékoré, in southern Guinea, on May 29, to the wonder of local residents.

The elephants' arrival in the Boma neighbourhood drew crowds of curious spectators into the streets, and many posted videos online.

It was the first time many of the residents, including Sekouba Beréte, had seen an elephant in person .Beréte, a taxi driver, said he quickly snapped a selfie with the animals.

We’ve never had elephants in town before, usually you have to go to the forest to see them. Everyone wanted to get close. I took a selfie with them and even touched one because they weren’t aggressive at all.


"The mother was killed three years ago”

The elephants live in the Ziama Massif, a forested mountain range nearly a hundred kilometres north of Nzérékoré. A report from 2004, the most recent available, found that 214 elephants were living the region.

Wata Camara, director of the forestry centre, said elephants often wander into villages near the Ziama region, but that it was unclear how this pair ended up so far from their habitat.

"We need to study this to understand what happened. We recognise this male and his calf. Three years ago, the mother was killed in the reserve by a hunter, and the two often leave the forest to look for her. That could explain why they ended up in the city. On the other hand, they could just be looking for food.

Four wildlife rangers were assigned to accompany the elephants back to the forest. Lead ranger Baré Koivogui said it was an opportunity to understand better the elephants’ behavior.

The rangers who followed the elephants for two days were equipped with GPS trackers so that we could map their route and, perhaps, learn a bit more about the motivations behind their behavior.

They were also assigned to protect the elephants from potential attacks and keep onlookers from getting too close. People were surprised to see these animals that they had only seen in documentaries. As you can see in the photos, the elephants aren’t aggressive and aren’t afraid of people.

The police prefect of Nzérékoré also released a statement asking residents to treat the elephants respectfully on their journey home.