An elephant at the Samburu National Reserve in Kenya gave birth to twin calves, a moment rarely witnessed in the country for more than a decade.
Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala took to social media on Thursday, January 20 to celebrate the historic birth of the calves who are currently a few days old.
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The announcement was made by conservation NGO Save the Elephants, noting that the birth of the calves, both male and female, that took place over the weekend, was an occurrence not seen in the reserve for more than 10 years.
“Elephant twins are very rare. In fact, they rarely live as twins as usually one or more die. It’s a big stress on the mother to have two calves to feed.
“I have seen twins several times over my career and it’s always a big event for us … when we have had twins a couple of times before it wasn’t a happy outcome. However, they can survive. It always causes quite a stir when they are born,” Save The Elephants founder Iain Douglas-Hamilton revealed to Newsweek.
Iain added that the survival of the twins will depend on the quality of the grass and vegetation and the experience of the matriarch.
“This mother has had successful experience of raising a calf before and the fact that it has rained recently the grass is green in Samburu and gives the little twins a greater chance of survival … We have to cross our fingers, but we are cautiously hopeful.”
The females of the largest existing land animals have a gestation period that typically lasts around two years with interbirth intervals usually lasting four to five years. Births tend to take place during the wet season.
Typically, only a single young is born, but twins sometimes occur. The birth however occurs one per cent of the time as the mother does not have enough milk for two calves.
A new calf is usually the centre of attention for herd members. Adults and most of the other young will gather around the newborn, touching and caressing it with their trunks.
For the first few days, the newborn is unsteady on its feet and needs the support of its mother. It relies on touch, smell, and hearing, as its eyesight is poor. It has little precise control over its trunk, which wiggles around and may cause it to trip.
By its second week of life, the calf can walk more firmly and has more control over its trunk. After its first month, a calf can pick up, hold, and put objects in its mouth, but cannot suck water through the trunk and must drink directly through the mouth. It is still dependent on its mother and keeps close to her.
For its first three months, a calf relies entirely on milk from its mother for nutrition, after which it begins to forage for vegetation and can use its trunk to collect water. At the same time, improvements in lip and leg movement occur.
Calves continue to suckle at the same rate as before until their sixth month, after which they become more independent when feeding. They weigh about 113 kilograms at birth and stands about three feet tall.
The rare birth comes amidst a surge in elephant populations across the country, and its first wildlife census in 2021 showed how the country has been cracking down on poachers to save the gentle animals.