Here’s some good news: Pseudagrion massaicum is no longer on the threatened list! The damsel flies! More proof that the elephant population is exploding.
East Africa’s spectacular red-eyed damsel which has been on the IUCN threatened species list for more than ten years was finally removed last year and confirmed this year as holding its own.
Too many non sequitur? Not really. Damsel flies, and the Masai (sic) Damsel (Pseudagrion massaicum )in particular, has been closely associated to elephants for millennia. Unlike its larger dragon fly cousin which is considerably more powerful and prefers rivers and swamps to larvae about, the damsel can do with much less.
Like the wallows dug by elephant as the veld dries!
Elephant are masters at finding water when the rains end. Mostly they head to sand rivers where their excavations are too fragile and changing to attract damsels.
But swamp edges and bogs also can provide lengthened sources of water for elephant, usually with little more effort than the jumbo’s clumsy push through it. And these are perfect for the Maasai damsel.
Scientists had first incorrectly suspected that the increase in the elephant populations would decrease the damsel and dragonfly populations, whereas the inverse is the truth. Original observations of elephants “disturbing” large groups of damsels misled the scientists. And I’m sure many larvae and flying damsels do succumb to the swinging brunt of a two-foot wide elephant foot!
But Michael J. Samways and Paul B. C. Grant in a 2009 paper, Elephant impact on dragonflies, squashed that one. The more you observed disturbed damsels, the more there were disturbed damsels!
And unlike their larger cousins, once their year-long larvae life is over, they hunt as many terrestrial as flying insects. Another reason to be further from the raging water.
In fact, the Masai (sic) damsel is famous for creating traps for ants, rather than just pouncing on them. Much like an antwolf it digs out a small depression in the sand and then waits on the rim for the ant to slip in.
So these two creatures will apparently live and die, together. Elephant populations are exploding, and so homes for the beautiful damsels are exploding, too. Natural chivalry at its finest!