Witnessing an Elephant Give Birth – And Hearing a Samburu Tale

Mar 7, 2014 | Categories: Community, Reserves | 5 Comments

The following story of a truly rare and spectacular event happened during our first Mama Simba game drive, when we took 32 Samburu women into the park to see lions. They got more than they bargained for. This blog was written by Jeneria Lekilele, Ewaso Lions Senior Field Officer.

After driving all over Samburu National Reserve looking for lions, we went for a short break to a beautiful clearing in the park. The ladies were quiet and kept asking us to see lions. We all split up and eventually found the lions. Everyone was so excited. In my car I had a lady with a little baby who started crying. I decided to drive further away from the lions so the lions would not be disturbed.

As I started driving towards the main river I saw many elephants together in the distance. After a minute, I heard an elephant screaming and I thought the elephants were mating because I knew it was their mating season. When I was about 100 metres away I saw many elephants coming together, surrounding one another and others running all over the place. I first thought that its their matriarch communicating to the rest of the group.

The agitated elephants crowded around the mother while she gave birth.

I drove a little closer and in the middle of the herd I saw a three years old calf kneeling down and putting his trunk in between an older female. The older female was putting her back down while screaming loudly and I saw a baby come out! It was covered with fluid and I stopped the car and jumped to the back of my car in between the ladies who were standing there staring.

An elephant knelt down to touch the baby as it came out.

I was very shocked as I realized what had happened. It was my first time to see an elephant give birth. We all kept staring and I forgot that I had my camera. I suddenly woke up and realized I had to call the rest of the group. I called them calmly on the radio but I was not calm inside. The others arrived and all were in shock watching the elephant and what was happening all around. Everyone saw the baby trying to stand up and being pushed by other elephants to help is stand. It was very shaky on its feet. The mother was throwing dust everywhere and was distressed as the baby struggled to stand. Eventually they all settled down.

The ladies in my car were talking to the elephant that had just given birth. They started telling me a story when Samburu women lived with elephants many years ago. They said that one day there was a woman and an elephant in the same Manyatta. There was a big ceremony of a mama giving birth and elephant was told to bring firewood outside the village. An elephant went out and brought a lot of firewood and afterwards the mama told the elephant that the firewood is not enough.

The newborn elephant.

“Go back and bring same more!” she told the elephant. The elephant went back again and he brought big pieces of firewood and when he returned back home, the mama told him again, “How much firewood have you brought? You should bring more than this.”

The elephant got very angry and upset. The mama picked up a cow skin and threw it at the elephant and told the elephant to go away. The elephant said,

“You will never see me in your village and I’m taking this skin so you can recognize me”.

After the mamas saw that the elephant was giving birth they remembered what the elephant said to them many years ago and they started talking to the elephant. “Ntomononi aai. We won’t help you with your birth but we heard that you and lions are disappearing and facing a lot of threats and we want to help you in another way, conserving and protecting you so you don’t disappear. You are still ours and very important to us.”

This is why the Samburu people believe that it is good luck when you see an elephant giving birth.

It was an amazing day.

Witnessing the birth of an elephant is a rare event and one that I will never forget.

The healthy newborn went looking for food.

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5 People have left comments on this post

» Odilek Keane said: { Mar 11, 2014 - 04:03:52 }

Absolutely thrilling, Lekilele, you should write more! I see a Samburu elephant children’s book . . . With this story, to reach all our Kenyan children who yet have such opportunities to become passionate about our National treadures. Asante for sharing such a precious moment! . . .

» Andreea Parisi said: { Mar 14, 2014 - 03:03:29 }

Incredible! Love stories like these.

» Stephen Chege said: { Mar 15, 2014 - 05:03:19 }

Nice story Genera, What an amazing experience. Next time carry your video camera

» James Kuria NDUNG'U said: { Apr 9, 2014 - 05:04:17 }

What a treat!!!