A Century After Near-Extinction, Elephant Herd Revels in Mud Bath at South African Park

In a heartwarming scene, a thriving herd of African bush elephants was recently seen enjoying a mud bath at the Addo Elephant National Park in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa.

This 100-strong herd, including around 15 baby elephants, has made a remarkable comeback from near extinction less than a century ago due to large-scale hunting by ivory poachers.

The playful elephants, now safe and thriving, were once part of a much larger population that roamed freely across South Africa.

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Making a splash: Baby African bush elephants enjoy a soak at a watering hole in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa. Source: Daily Mail
Glorious mud: Around 15 baby elephants make up the herd splashing around in the mud, with one calf taking a tumble as it tries to climb out of the waterhole. Source: Daily Mail
Back from the brink: The herd was almost hunted to extinction less than a century ago, with only left a small number isolated in the dense Addo bush. This image was taken in Addo, South Africa, in 1919. Source: Daily Mail

When the first Europeans arrived at the Cape of Good Hope in 1652, thousands of elephants inhabited the region.

However, centuries of ivory hunting drastically reduced their numbers, leaving only a small group isolated in the dense Addo bush in the eastern part of the Cape Colony.

In the 1900s, Addo’s elephants began raiding local orange orchards, prompting farmers to seek government intervention.

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The authorities employed game hunters in 1918 to exterminate the remaining elephants, thought to number around 100. By the time the massacre stopped, a mere 13 elephants remained.

These survivors found sanctuary in the Addo Elephant National Park, established to protect them. The South African government has since launched a major program to ensure their survival and enhance their genetic diversity.

When the first Europeans settled at the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa in 1652, there were thousands of elephants roaming free – but ivory hunters wiped most of them out. Source: Daily Mail
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Bouncing back: These adorable scenes were captured on camera by professional photographer and documentary filmmaker Nic van Oudtshoorn from Sydney, Australia. Source: Daily Mail
Playtime: Two baby elephants were seen charging through the muddy water in the Addo Elephant National Park under the watchful eye of their parents. Source: Daily Mail

Nic van Oudtshoorn, a professional photographer and documentary filmmaker from Sydney, Australia, captured the delightful footage of the elephants frolicking in the muddy waterhole.

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The mass slaughter of elephants in the region eventually came to an end but at one stage, only 13 of the animals were still alive. Source: Daily Mail
A baby elephant splashes around playfully in the watering hole burying its trunk and covering itself in muddy water. Source: Daily Mail
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Communal bath: Mr. Van Oudtshoorn said he could hear the loud ‘trumpeting, snorting and splashing’ from about 200 yards away. Source: Daily Mail

Despite being 200 yards away and using a powerful telephoto lens, he could still hear the cacophony of trumpeting, snorting, and splashing. According to van Oudtshoorn, the elephants were not bothered by his presence, as they are accustomed to humans in the popular national park.

The younger elephants slipped and slid in the mud while the older ones ensured their safety. Mud baths serve a vital function for elephants, helping them to cool down in high temperatures and protecting their sensitive skin from sunburn. Elephants lack sweat glands but cool themselves by circulating blood through their large ears, which function like radiators.

Reflecting on his years of filming wildlife, van Oudtshoorn described the event as “one of my most endearing and memorable experiences.”

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Helping hand: Adult elephants help a baby out of the watering hole after the herd had enjoyed splashing around in the mud. Source: Daily Mail
Fun in the sun: The elephants spent about 40 minutes squelching through the mud at this watering hole before walking off together. Source: Daily Mail
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