An elephant discovered an unusual approach to keep cool in the heat by dousing himself with sand and dust.
The incredible photograph was taken by wildlife photographer Richard du Toit in South Africa’s Kruger National Park, where the mercury is expected to hit 38 degrees this weekend.
He stalked an elephant bull for several minutes until it stopped and scraped the ground before spreading a huge cloud of sand and dust over itself.
He set up his camera gear in the hope of catching the elephant returning to do the same thing, standing 50 meters away to avoid making the animal anxious or upset.
The Johannesburg-based photographer said: ‘Elephants often take dust baths and spray themselves in mud.
They do this because they try to cool themselves down or provide protection from biting flies that might torment them.
Although I’ve observed elephants perform this frequently, capturing it well is difficult, so I rushed to set up my camera.
I then drove slowly with one hand on my huge camera, precariously pointing out the window while the other hand on the steering wheel.
I had to keep one eye on the elephant and the other on the uneven road.
I was hoping he’d blast himself again so I could get a photo.
‘When the huge elephant stopped for a moment, so did I, and a split second later, he was drenched in this amazing sand cloud. ‘I was ecstatic to record this sequence.’
He followed the elephant for a few minutes before it vanished behind thick vegetation, oblivious to Mr du Toit’s presence.
He added that the park is a great location to capture photos of animals in their natural habitat.
‘I’ve been to the Kruger National Park many times, and I drive there in my own car. Within the park, you can travel about using your vehicle, but you must remain inside at all times.
‘Elephants may be observed in the park at any time of day or night and are generally quite calm. ‘
A census in 2015 discovered that there were over 17,000 elephants in Kruger National Park.
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s African Elephant Status Report, there have been a staggering 100,000 fewer African elephants in the wild over the previous decade.