When you are out on Long Term Monitoring (LTM) you expect to see a lot of interesting things from vultures feeding on a dead Grant’s gazelle, giraffes necking or male elephants fighting. However seeing a new life is one of the greatest and life changing experiences. Be it a new born lion cub, a giraffe calf trying to stand up or a new born elephant calf.
A few days ago when we were out on LTM we spotted a large parade of about 40 elephants. In the herd was about 4 different families one of them being the Spices. Our curiosity was aroused by this large group of elephants which is an unusual thing to do in the dry season. We started following the herd and in the midst of the huge legs we saw a very tiny moving figure.
“A new calf!” Davido our LTM leader shouted unable to hide his excitement. The other elephants in the herd were so protective of the baby, blocking the calf with their huge legs making it hard for us to see the new born.
“That is her mum, Pilipili. The calf is barely a day old,” Davido adds. The Spices were in a rush and we only had a few minutes to take photos as well as glimpse at the calf. We left the group in peace and moved along knowing it wouldn’t be long before we saw her again.
The following day, while on our usual LTM we spotted Pilipili stretching her trunk over a toothbrush tree reaching out for fresh leaves. Lying on the path under the tree was her new calf who was deeply asleep! This was the perfect moment to spend time with her and her family. You could see Pilipili’s motherly protective instinct by the way she was spreading her ears whenever there was any slight movement and the way she spread her legs over the calf in a protective stance.
After Pilipili had her fill she started nudging the baby with her foot signaling ‘it’s time to go’. Using her mother’s foot for support the calf stood up, still unsure of what to do with her ears and immediately started suckling. The rest of the members from the spices family who were hoovering around soon joined Pilipili and started greeting the calf by touching her with their trunks. You could feel the bond between them as they carried on with this ritual. This bond is now stronger than ever with the arrival of the young one and the Spices are now a stronger family.
It was time to leave the Spices after spending almost two priceless hours with the calf. Pilipili’s daughter is now a key member of the Spices family and hopefully one day she will be the matriarch. With all the challenges that the African elephant is facing such as poaching, trade in ivory, change in habitat and climate change Pilipili’s daughter is more than just a number; she is a sign of hope for all endangered wildlife species all over the world. She is the reason why we must all commit to protecting these animals.