Gavin Lautenbach, Londolozi ranger, had only met Jeffrey Shan & Stephanie Gettis a few hours prior, yet none of them could anticipate what they were to witness that afternoon at Londolozi Game Reserve.
Gav and Solly Mhlongo (Tracker) had decided to take Taylor’s river road when they bumped into the elephant cow. Both of them noticed her demonstrating unusual behavior as she was kicking her legs back, visibly uneasy, shifting from side to side and seemed to be in distress. At that time the cow was alone with audio of many elephants quite a distance off. As both Gav and Solly noted to each other: the cow looked pregnant and it looked like she was going to give birth. Quite literally, five minutes later, the calf dropped out.
Gavin says “It was without a doubt the highlight of my guiding career and the best sighting that I have ever had. To be able to witness something that incredible was truly a very special experience to be able to share with Solly as well as Jeff & Stephanie.”
Lots of elephants came to join what was usually a breeding herd of around 7 elephants. It seemed like they were all there to celebrate the process of a 22 month gestation finally coming to a head.
Tom Imrie, Londolozi ranger, says “The rangers are only really alerted to the births of elephants owing to the trumpeting, screaming and how visibly excited the different elephant herds get.”
Elephants mate once the females comes into estrous, which can happen at anytime throughout the year. When she is ready, she starts emitting infrasonic rumblings that attract the males, sometimes from kilometers away. During the course of the following days, bulls will fight amongst each other to secure mating rights with the female. She awards this right to a particular male by rubbing her body against his. After 22 months of gestation, the female gives birth to a single 90cm high calf, weighing just over 100kg. A few days after birth, the calf is able to follow the herd on foot.
Elephants, much like humans, seem to celebrate the birth of young and join together in community to be present. Whilst human beings might spread the message through the use of cellphones, email or word of mouth, elephants communicate with each other through a system of infrasonic rumblings that operate at frequencies of hertz above and below humans hearing. In doing this they are able to alert other elephants as to their activities and movements.
Elephants share a number of similarities with human beings, including those associated with fixed family units, grief, learning, allomothering, a sense of humour, compassion, self-awareness, long term memory, language and their lifespan of around 60 years.
The footage was filmed by Jeffrey Shan and Stephanie Gettis whilst on safari at Londolozi Game Reserve.