This wonderful game report comes to us from our good friends at Wilderness Safaris and Abu Camp in Botswana.
Sighting: Birth of a calf to Shireni
Location: Abu Camp, Abu Concession, Botswana
Date: 21 December 2011
Observer: Abu Camp staff and guests
At 10:05pm on Saturday, 17 December 2011, Shireni, one of the leading elephants at Abu Camp, gave birth to a female calf. She was in good health and measured 90cm at the shoulder. Staff and guests braved the bad weather to but once she managed to get to her feet, instinct kicked in and she immediately began to suckle – after this, all systems were go!
The entire process was dramatised by the flashes of lightning, giving us a series of still images in the darkness, which have been ingrained into the minds of all the spectators forever. The other six elephants rumbled through the night, no doubt spreading the happy news to the wilderness beyond.
Early in the morning, the clouds parted and we found the baby curled up next to her brother, six-year-old Abu, both fast asleep after the excitement of the night before. Our little girl’s first attempt to leave the boma was short-lived, and after just six steps she flopped over and had a twenty-minute nap; getting around is a rather big effort for an elephant just a few hours old!
After a while, mom gently woke her baby and with the help of Cathy, the matriarch of the herd, got her to her feet and on the move again. This time they got out the gates, across the dry riverbed, through a few small puddles and out into the green bush to the north of camp.
We all watched as her bandy rubber legs quivered and gave in time and time again, and each time one of the other elephants was there to get her back on her feet, always surrounding and protecting her and stroking her with their trunks, never letting her out of their sight.
The herd spent the rest of the day meandering through the bush, making sure the newest member was always right in the middle of the herd. By lunch time Paseka, our mischievous two-year-old and the baby were fast asleep under a tree, taking a good few hours of rest, while Cathy, Shireni and Abu stood over them keeping watch.
After nearly 36 hours of ‘brain fracking’, the elephant handlers announced that they had agreed on a name. The name ‘Warona’ was chosen, the Setswana meaning being ‘for us’.
Warona delighted us all on Day 2 by joining the rest of the herd for a mud wallow in the midday heat. A little steadier on her feet than the day before, she spent the entire day right next to her mother, often playing with Paseka. It looks like there is a deep friendship developing between the two calves.
Our tiniest elephant did her first weigh-in today and it turns out the thigh-high baby weighs more than anyone in camp – a whopping 110kg!
The other elephants also took their turn on the scales, Cathy, matriarch and largest of the lot weighs in at 3 340kg! While Kitimetse, mother of Lorato and adopted mother of Paseka, is a much lighter 2 080kg.
Summer mists hung low in the air over Abu Camp, allowing our guests to get some outstanding photos of the herd, Warona in tow, crossing the dry riverbed to Baboon Island in the mist.