Early this year, one of our international interns, Tempe Adams from Australia, together with STE researchers, were lucky enough to witness one of the rarest things – an elephant birth! This was indeed a very warm ‘welcome to Samburu’ for Tempe! Here’s their story:
Witnessing a birth-29/01/10 approx 17:30 Report by David Daballen and Tempe Adams
Photos by Tempe Adams
David, Tempe and Josephine of STE went out on a routine patrol on Samburu side checking all the families in that area of the reserve. On the way we encountered several families including The Winds family. After checking Winds we encountered another very small herd however as they were a substantial distance away we thought we would check them on the way back. We then ventured on Nakadeli hills approx one km’s to Archer’s gate and found another small family off to the east of the track. We decided to go over and identify the family.
- 18:24 Annie in when first identified.
Initially we thought there were only one cow and three babies, which we identified as the Poetics. As David looked through his files to do specific identification a breeding cow appeared lagging behind the family group, we identified her as Annie from the Poetics. It was clear in her behaviour that she was uneasy and distressed by vocalising many deep rumbled calls and sitting on her rump followed by defecating quite frequently.
- 18:30 Annie’s strange behaviour, crossing her back leg
Every time she defecated she would turn to it and show a great deal of interest. She also seemed very concerned about the vehicle and at one point approached and touched the front part of the car, not in any aggressive way. It was at this point that we concluded that something was bothering her either she was having severe stomach issues or she was about give birth. Although it was getting dark we decided to monitor her behaviour and to see what the outcome would be. It that point she stretched herself forward putting a lot of her weight on the front legs and leaned back, defecating once again. She then quite quickly began backing up and began to rumble to alert the rest of the family. The rest of the family rushed to her side and showed a great deal of interest. She then sat on her rump and lent on her side. With all this happening we did not want to seem pushy but we did want to know what was going on.
- 18:31 Annie sitting down
She got up quickly, and we noticed a lump travel down between her back legs she was then backing up and then stopped abruptly and her water broke, which immediately signalled to the family that the baby was on the way. They all smelt the fluid and all of them at the same time started rumbling young and old. We then approached her as quickly as we could with minimal amount of disturbance. Unfortunately there was a lot of bush around. When the vehicle had stopped she had just dropped the baby and she turned to the baby and looked shocked. It was still in the sack at that time. She then gently with her foot broke the birth sac so as to let the baby breath.
- 18:37 Annie assisting her calf in standing
At that time all the family came around really excited all rumbling and streaming. Her sister Edith starting holding back the youngest calf from stepping on the baby. The mother was trying her hardest to protect her baby from the young ones and the bushes. She did this by clearing the bushes around where the baby lay. She also was trying to get the baby to stand with her trunk and front feet, however the baby had great difficulty as he was lying in his after birth and was very disorientated. This whole process took at least 40 mins to an hour stand confidently on its feet. In this time Annie allowed her nine year old daughter to assist her in this process.
- 19:04 Annie’s daughter helping her mum with the calf
We observed her to be very helpful to her mum in getting the calf to its feet. At this point the family was excited but relaxed this was indicated by Annie’s sister Edith backing off from where the calf was and began feeding again. The other two calves one was Edith’s and the other to Annie started playing with each other, mounting each other. When Annie realised what the other two calves were doing she looked up from her calf and was not happy with what they were doing, she indicated this by being very vigilant towards the calves. After that point the group had relaxed all Annie was concerned with was clearing anything around calf, so as to not inhibit his progress in standing up.
The whole process felt so very quick we rather begrudgingly and sadly left the scene as we had lost all natural light and we wanted the mother and calf to bond and have some peace. We meet the Poetics initially as a five member group but we were very happy to witness the arrival of the sixth member of the group.
- 19:07 Leaving the new member of the poetic to some peace