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