Elephants are intelligent and graceful animals, but like humans, they need some time to get over the clumsiness of their youth.
Although newborn elephants only take a few hours to master standing and walking – skills important to rearing – they need more time to figure out how to use their trunks. The long appendages on their faces are valuable multi-tools, but without a manual, it can take almost a year for baby elephants to really understand how to use them.
In the photo above, taken at Mana Pools National Park in Zimbabwe, a baby elephant clumsily bending down to drink water directly from his mouth. Elephants often use their trunks to siphon up water and spray into their mouths, which helps them avoid such a vulnerable position. However, this baby can’t do that yet, so it’s just the only way for him to know how to provide water.
According to the KOTA Foundation, a non-profit organization focused on raising awareness about African elephants: “Once an elephant is born, it cannot control the use of its trunk, and it rotates as they try different techniques to control it.
For example, in this video from South Africa’s Kruger National Park, a baby elephant appears to drink the same water as the adults. However, after bravely trying to use its trunk, it eventually gave up and adopted the technique as shown above:
Elephants often find a way to drink water when they are 1 year old. When they reach adulthood, their trunks can siphon up to 10 gallons of water per minute and hold up to two gallons at a time.