This is a lovely moment when a herd of elephants – who were almost wip𝚎d out by h𝚞nt𝚎rs less than a century ago – enjoy a lucky mud bath.
A herd of 100 African wild elephants played in a muddy water hole at Addo Elephant National Park in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa.
About 15 baby elephants were splashing in the mud. One elephant tumbles as it tries to climb out of the water hole, all under the supervision of an adult, who finally pulls the calf from the water.
But despite their carefree appearance now, it may be a very different story for elephants, which faced extinction less than a century ago.
When the first Europeans settled at Cape Good Vong in South Africa in 1652, thousands of elephants were left free.
But over the next few centuries, ivory h𝚞nt𝚎rs wip𝚎d out most of them, leaving only a tiny isolated herd in the dense Addo bushes east of Cape Colony.
When farmers planted oranges in the Addo region in the 1900s, elephants emerged from the bushes to raid their orchards.
The peasants asked the government for help, and in 1918 game h𝚞nt𝚎rs were hired to k𝚒ll all the Addo elephants, believed to be around 100.
In the end, the mass carnage stopped, but at that time, only 13 elephants were left alive.
They were confined in the Addo Elephant National Park, created specifically to feed them, and the South African government is now securing their future. A great program has been in place to renew their genetic resources.
The animals were recently shot by professional photographer and documentary filmmaker Nic van Oudtshoorn, from Sydney, Australia.
He said: ‘It was a hot, sunny morning, and I was filming the lives of birds at a large water hole in Addo Park when a huge herd of elephants – at least a hundred, maybe more. – come and plunge straight into the water.
‘There are at least 15 small calves. I was only about 200 yards away while slightly rising and filming with the powerful telephoto lens.
Since this is a very famous national park, the elephants have become accustomed to humans and are not inhibited by my presence.
‘Even from that distance, the sound of trumpets, snorting, and splashes were enormous as the elephants sprayed mud all over themselves while rolling around in them and playfully butting their heads and bodies against one another.
‘Some even stirred the water with their feet to create more mud. Especially touching is the careful care to make sure the little calves are safe, and the older elephants can restrain them as they become boisterous.
‘It’s funny watching the babies slip and slide in the mud, especially when they try to get out of the water and onto the shore.
‘When the temperature in Addo is so high, a mud bath like this will help the elephants cool down. Dry mud protects their sensitive skin from sunburn as they roam in the veldt.
‘Elephants don’t have sweat glands, so mud doesn’t stop perspiration. Instead, when the elephants get too hot, they pump blood through their giant ears that function as radiators in an automobile engine.
Their fun lasted for about 40 minutes before they started leaving the water hole and walking.
‘Over the years of wildlife filming, this has been one of my most attractive and most memorable experiences.’