Suckled by their mother Bora and guarded by a watchful male, rare new-born twin baby elephants ingested nourishment that conservationists hope will enable them to survive a perilous start to life in a Kenyan safari park.
As yet unnamed, the pair were born this week in the Samburu National Reserve, becoming only the second set of twin calves ever encountered by local charity Save the Elephants.
“Twins form around only 1% of births. Quite often the mothers don’t have enough milk to support two calves,” the charity’s founder, Iain Douglas-Hamilton, said on Thursday.
The last time Save the Elephants saw elephant twins was in 2006.
“Sadly both calves died shortly after birth,” Douglas-Hamilton said. “The next few days will be touch and go for the new twins but we all have our fingers crossed for their survival.”
At about 22 months, the African elephant has the longest gestation period of any living mammal, and gives birth approximately every four years.
Elephants in Kenya and other sub-Saharan African countries have increasingly fallen prey to poachers, who kill them to feed Asian demand for ivory for use in folk medicines.
But Kenya’s tourism ministry said in 2020 that elephant numbers in the country had more than doubled thanks to increased anti-poaching efforts to 34,000 in 2018 from 16,000 in 1989.