Martha Beck must have a strange attraction for elephants. The last time she was at Londolozi she had an interesting conversation with our ‘resident’ bull and this time around she watched an elephant cow give birth in the Sand River right beneath her room. Whatever this attraction is, we don’t mind as it allows us to gain greater insight into the lives of elephants and enhance our already respectful relationships with them.
Much like the resident bull requested Oranges from Martha, for a moment I thought this herd had also come out to deliver their demands to her. Perhaps they wanted more mud pools, the grass beneath the sprinklers or bags of oranges for themselves…? It turns out though, that they had more traditional thoughts at hand. You see, elephants commune when cows go into labour. Owing to ultrasonic rumbling and the incredible family dynamics these creatures posses, elephants almost always give birth with the greater protection and support of the herd around them.
Much trumpeting and bellowing occurs before the cow drops her calf and the tiny elephant is helped onto his wobbly legs. Unable to control his trunk, it waves around quite flamboyantly only stopping when pressed against the cows stomach as he suckles for the first time.
This particular birth was an extremely rare sighting and the fact that it occurred in front of camp makes one wonder why they were comfortable enough to go through this process with the activity of the lodge and spectators close by. It may be that the river was a close by source of water; it could also be put down to years of respectful elephant viewing at Londolozi, but truth be told I find these old explanations rather boring… I’m putting it down to the fact that the elephant whisperer was back in town and in a display of appreciation for their cause had decided to put on a little show for her.
Photographed by: Shan Varty