Elephants are highly intelligent creatures who display a tremendous amount of emotional awareness. It’s not unheard of for them to risk their safety to help a member of their herd or to mourn the loss of a loved one.
So perhaps it is unsurprising that when one mother elephant’s baby was in danger and ultimately rescued by humans, she would find a way to show her gratitude.
The Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, a leading conservation organization that focuses on the rescue and raising of orphaned baby elephants and rhinos in Kenya, shares many moving stories about the animals it helps to save. But a recent video posted on the group’s Facebook page, which you can view below, is incredibly heartwarming.
“On 4th March, we received reports of an infant calf who had fallen into a water hole,” Sheldrick Wildlife Trust wrote. “The SWT/KWS Tsavo Mobile Veterinary Team, with Keepers from our Voi Reintegration Unit, leaped into action and raced to the baby’s side.”
They called the scene heart-wrenching. While mother elephants can typically save their babies from such mishaps alone or with help from other family members, it appeared to the team that the herd had exhausted all avenues. If the people did not intervene, the mother would have had no choice but to abandon her baby.
Elephant family units are exceptional. Once a mother gives birth (after a 22-month pregnancy), she will raise her baby alongside siblings, aunts and grandparents. While males leave the herd between the ages of 12 and 15 for a relatively solitary life, females live out their lives alongside their mothers and other relatives.
Leaving a baby behind is not something an elephant takes lightly.
“But hope was not lost,” the organization shared on Facebook. “In a swift, choreographed motion, the team ran over and pulled the infant out of the trough and from there, shepherded it over in the direction of its mother, who was cautiously waiting nearby. After inspecting her baby, the mother gave her calf’s rescuers a long look and let out a single trumpet, as if thanking them, before moving on with her young one. A family reunited and a dynasty on the plains of Tsavo continued!”
The Trust noted on its website that the actual rescue was not captured on video as “all hands on deck” were required. The organization also explained that it has successfully carried out numerous reunions over the years.
“Animals seem to understand the Trust is there to help,” Rob Brandford, Executive Director of the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, told Newsweek. “Whether it’s raising a trunk in salute, or echoing a trumpet, these expressions of gratitude and recognition time and again never ceases to humble and amaze.”