Nature

Savanna Elephant Gives Birth To Rare Twin Calves in Tanzania National Park

Tanzania's Tarangire National Park must be doing something right. A savanna elephant just gave birth to a pair of rare twin calves.

A savanna elephant and her new twin newborn calves in Tanzania. Photo: Wildlife Conservation Society

Researchers for WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society) who have been studying the Tarangire ecosystem’s northern subpopulation for 25 years recently spotted the calves—one male and one female—during their monitoring efforts and have been keeping a close eye on the infant animals. It is estimated that one percent of all elephant conceptions results in twins.

The scientists report that the mother elephant named Eloise, estimated to be 57 years old, gave birth to the twins in August 2017, which makes her the oldest mother elephant known to have given birth to twins.

Unfortunately, twin elephant calves have a bigger challenge than single offspring in the journey to adulthood; mortality among twins is usually greater than with single infants. Male infants, with their higher growth rates and greater nutritional needs, are particularly vulnerable during their infancy.

In spite of the odds, Tarangire researchers report that the twins are both doing well and are already approximately eight months old. They will continue to suckle with their mother for another three to four years while making the transition to the park’s lush vegetation. 

“The twins were originally quite thin and we were worried that they wouldn't survive. Fortunately the park has experienced good rains in the past three months, and both twins have gained significant weight and we are happy to see that they are now playing more frequently,” said Dr. Charles Foley, Director of WCS’s Tarangire Elephant Project. “The elephants in and around Tarangire National Park are well protected by the park rangers and local communities, and with the guidance of an experienced matriarch, we have high hopes for their survival. Every elephant calf born is a step towards the recovery of the species, and twins are even better.”

WCS works across the African continent to study and protect both savanna and forest elephants, both of which have become imperiled by a number of threats, foremost of which is the illegal killing of these charismatic animals for the ivory trade.