Baby Elephant Falls and Rolls Down a Hill

Nov 8 2015

Due to living in New Zealand, Charlene Koen, videographer of 'Baby Elephant Falls and Rolls Down a Hill', can't visit the Kruger Park as often as she would like. But approximately every two years when they do visit South Africa, the Kruger is always on their itinerary. This last visit she was awarded a wonderful sighting at the Biyamiti Bushveld camp, just before sunset, at approximately five in the evening.

In fact her party had not long arrived at the camp, and were just settling in when they were awarded with the sound of trumpeting. They rushed to the fence! And here they watched as a herd of elephants marched towards the water for a drink of water. Charlene says, 'This particular video is approximately the 2nd or 3rd herd which came down for a drink. However it is this herd that really caught our attention. They happened to be in a rush, and charged down the bank towards the riverbed'.

Interesting to watch these giants run, their weight is supported with limbs positioned more vertically under the body than in most other mammals. Trevor Carnaby, author of Beat about the Bush explains, 'What are perceived to be knees on the front legs are in fact wrists. Elephants only have knees on the back legs, which they always use to support the weight of the hind quarters when lying down and standing up.'

Charlene and party continued observing them, and the baby ran ahead to the front of the line, not before taking a tumble. 'It is a real cute sighting to witness,' says Charlene, 'It is amazing to watch elephants in their natural environment and fascinating to watch for instance how they dig for water.'

Trevor explains further, 'In winter, elephants attempt to dig for water in dry riverbeds - the most likely place they will find it. Digging is initiated with the forefeet, the sand being removed with powerful forward and backward movements. The trunk then also comes into play, particularly nearer the water table where the damper, compacted sand is easier to manage. Once the water table is reached, cool water seeps through the sand and begins to fill the hole. The elephants then constantly need to remove sand and keep the narrow excavation open to ensure a fresh supply seeps through. Once the the elephants have departed, the water is then available for other animals to drink.'

Charlene says she also loves to watch how protective they are over their young, and as for the youngsters, 'They are are always entertaining, and make me laugh'. Play behaviour in calves differ between the sexes, for example female calves are more prone to run around and chase each other, while the males play-fight.

Elephant calves have little control over their trunks, in fact have little mouth or foot coordination. While adult elephants don't drink through their trunks they use it as a tool to gather water and then squirt it into their mouths, calves suckle directly with their mouths. Interestingly Trevor says, 'Each calf develops a favourite and comfortable position for their trunk while suckling'. But as we have witnessed in other Latest Sightings videos, common characteristics and behaviour seen is the clumbsy dumbo like run with swinging ears!


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