Incredibly rare African elephant twins have been born at a reserve in Northern Kenya for the first time in decades. The twin calves, spotted in Samburu National Park, are just a few days old and the first to be recorded in the reserve since 2006.
Twins form only 1 percent of all elephant births, as a mother do not usually have enough milk for two calves.
The birth came as a pleasant surprise to research and protection organization Save the Elephants, which monitors the family of elephants in the park.
Iain Douglas-Hamilton, founder of Save the Elephants, told Newsweek: “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.”
Douglas-Hamilton said that at the moment the twins are looking well, if a bit small. Because of a large amount of rainfall recently, he remains optimistic.
“The survival of the twins depends very much on the quality of the grass and vegetation and the experience of the matriarch,” he said. “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 discovery was made by guides from a luxury eco-camp organization, Elephant Watch Camp, on Sunday morning (January 16.)
The guides, who are trained by Save the Elephants to recognize individual elephants and families in the park, alerted researchers who confirmed that the calves are a male and female.
The researchers will monitor the health and progress of the calves as part of daily monitoring activities.
The mother of the twins is a female named Bora from a family of elephants known as Winds II.
Save the Elephants has been studying and monitoring the family for decades.
African elephants have the longest gestation period of any living mammal, at approximately 22 months. Fertile females give birth roughly every four years.
The twins are Bora’s second born offspring. She also has an older calf which was born in 2017 and was seen in the vicinity of Bora and the twins on Sunday.