Elephant Baby Boom

This morning we went in search of elephants. And who could have known what was in store for us. When we eventually came across the herd they were quite spread out. As we approached closer we could see that there were a number of elephants forming a circle around an adult female. When we looked more closely we could see something drop from between the legs of the adult female. Then we noticed that it was birth fluids. And then we were lucky enough to get a glimpse of a brand new elephant baby!!! The baby was still covered in birth fluid and struggling to stand. And the group was shuffling around with the calf between them for protection. Every elephant birth is different can take widely varying amounts of time. On average the process is approximately 7 hours and the calf weights around 300 lbs, standing within a few minutes. Nursing usually occurs within a few hours after birth.
This is the third recent addition to the herd. There are two other youngsters of 10 weeks and 2 weeks. Soon after the female had given birth one of the bulls in the group began an attempt to mate with her. He mouted her several times but his attempt was blocked every time. Evidently it is not uncommon for male elephants to attempt to mate with a female just after she has given birth.
As we watched events unfolding we saw a bateleur eagle soaring low above our heads. Bateleur eagles usually fly lower than most other eagles and vultures and are the first bird of prey to locate food. Vultures and other raptors watch the bateleur and if he/she lands on the ground they usually follow to investigate. Clearly the eagle had seen the after-birth and was keen to dig in. Within moments there were around 100 African white backed and hooded vultures all tucking in for a feast.
For all of us this was a first. And we felt extremely privileged to be part of such a momentous occasion. We wish the youngster well and look forward to documenting its progress over the coming weeks.
Story by Sarah-Estelle Sangster, River Lodge Ranger

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