Twin elephants have been born in the Addo Elephant National Park in the Eastern Cape. This is only the third time in the history of the park that such an event has been recorded.
Elephant cows usually give birth to one calf after a 22-month gestation period and the occurrence of twins is relatively rare. All three sets of twins have been born into the same family herd, to closely related females.
The twins were first noticed on December 11, 2004 by guides of the Riverbend lodge situated in the Nyathi concession area of the park. As new-born elephants are usually hidden in thick bush for the first few days of their lives, it is likely that the twins were born a day or two before the sighting.
The twins, named Dusk and Dawn, are now over a month old. All elephants in the Addo Elephant National Park have been given names for identification and research purposes, creating one of the most comprehensive family trees in any elephant herd.
The next month will be the most critical time period for the elephant calves. In both previous sets of twins, one of the twins gradually lost condition and died at about two months of age. It is thought that this resulted from the mother elephant not producing enough milk for two calves.
However, rangers at the Addo Elephant National Park are hopeful that both Dusk and Dawn will survive as they are in good condition at present. In addition, recent rains in December and January have stimulated grass and bush growth, providing ample food for the twins' mother.
As is common in elephants, the mother and twins are closely accompanied by a handful of sub-adult females, who help to protect and nurture the young calves as well as learning how to mother their own calves in the future.
The Addo elephant herd is now approximately 420-strong. The Addo Elephant National Park currently covers some 148 000 hectares in the Eastern Cape and is situated 75 kilometres from Port Elizabeth.