Huge gentle giants, elephants have long fascinated the world with their behavior. Legends continue of elephant graveyards, where the elderly go to die. They alone among the non-human animals of the world have been seen mourning their dead long after they are gone.
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But there’s even more interesting behavior at the start of an elephant’s life, and that’s something we rarely get to see.
A mother elephant giving birth is a rare sight. Captured at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Chobi National Park, Botswana by Chirstian and Ginnette Leroy, this footage is once in a lifetime. Female elephants are pregnant for two whole years, and can only conceive once every four or five years.
Baby elephants are often vulnerable to wild dogs and other predators, as is the mother. Therefore, the mother is guarded from predators by her herd and, unknowingly, by the keepers. The community ready to fight for the child, the mother has some peace of mind.
Seconds after she gives birth, the herd gathers around in joyful celebration. Using their trunks, they carefully cover him in dust so that the sun won’t damage his soft skin. The elation is easy to see throughout the video.
Seeing such a strong communal celebration is almost always moving, and doubly so when attended only by animals. One can only imagine what it must be like to be that calf, born into the world with such joy.
As one YouTuber put it: “What better way to enter the world, everyone around you, guarding you, touching you, helping you. Now you know why the elephant smiles and is one of the Earth’s finest citizens.”
The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, where this was seen, is a Kenyan-based organization dedicated to preserving such citizens. The DSWT runs the most successful elephant orphanage in the world. Their charity even extends past orphaned elephants to rhinos who all too often lose their mothers to poachers.