A heartwarming moment has been captured on film in Kruger National Park, South Africa, where a baby elephant took its first wobbly steps just moments after being born.
The awe-inspiring video shows a herd of elephants blocking the road, seemingly nervous and agitated. Wildlife enthusiasts Fabrice Invernizzi and his girlfriend, Angélique Piccinelli, were visiting the park when they stumbled upon the incredible sight.
“At first, we thought there was an injured elephant,” Invernizzi told Newsweek. “But after observing them for a while, we realized that it was a birth. The mother had just given birth to her little one, and we were lucky enough to witness the whole thing.”
The tiny pachyderm was a bit unstable on its feet, but the other members of the herd were quick to lend a helping trunk.
The adults carefully guided the baby elephant as it stumbled and even picked it up when it fell on its side. The mother, in particular, was very attentive, using her trunk and leg to encourage her baby to walk on its own.
As the calf grew more stable on its feet, the mother even recovered the placenta and flogged herself with it, possibly even giving her newborn a piece of it. It was an incredible display of motherly love and nurturing that left the couple in awe.
“Angelique had the shivers, and I had to stop filming at one point to wipe away a tear,” Invernizzi said. “We had never seen such a spectacle of nature. It was truly breathtaking.”
Sadly, the tour group had to leave the herd of elephants before the park gates closed at 6.30 p.m. But the heartwarming memory of the newborn calf’s first steps will stay with Invernizzi and Piccinelli for a long time to come.
Kruger National Park has seen a significant increase in its elephant population over the last two decades, with numbers growing from just 10 elephants at the start of the 20th century to over 17,000 in 2015.
Elephants are the largest land mammal on Earth, growing up to 10 feet tall and weighing up to seven tonnes. They reach sexual maturity at around 15 years and have a gestation period of around 22 months. Calves can usually walk within a couple of hours of being born and will nurse exclusively from their mothers for the first six months.
After two days, they can join the herd and start trying out grasses and leaves. They continue to nurse for two to three years until fully weaned.