Rare Elephant Twins Born in Sri Lanka

The famous “Great Gathering” of elephants becomes even greater this year!

Aug 21, 2020

A great trumpeting was heard as the elephants heralded a new birth. Yet the celebratory sounds were surely louder and more joyous than heard before; these Asian elephants were welcoming twin calves, the first set of elephant twins ever recorded on the island of Sri Lanka.

The exciting sighting of baby twins, as reported on Mongabay, was at the famous “Great Gathering.” Happening in Kaudulla National Park, some 125 miles northeast of Colombo, the gathering is one of the most incredible spectacles of wildlife in the world.

Starting in June and lasting until the rains come in November, some 450 elephants start in Minneriya Park and walk together to the Kaudulla sanctuary where they congregate around the waters to feast, breed, and play. 

When the national park recently reopened, conservationist and elephant researcher Sumith Pilaptiya observed an interesting phenomenon: two identical babies. Pilaptiya, who studies the social behavior of Asian elephants (Elephas maximus maximus), wanted to first make sure the elephants were not “allomothering.” This occurs when another female in the herd nurtures a calf that is not biologically her own.

After watching them playing together and feeding from the same female, Pilaptiya consulted with African elephant experts, making an observational conclusion that these calves were, in fact, twins. Pilaptiya is sending out samples of dung for DNA testing to get scientific confirmation.

During the past 50 years of elephant monitoring, researchers have encountered very few twins, as noted on Mongabay. There were orphaned twin elephants in Kenya’s Amboseli National Park 18 years ago, however, between 2018 and 2020, there have been three sets born in Kenya, with two sets of twins born just this year.

As the female elephant, according to Elephants for Africa, has the longest gestation of all mammals – she is pregnant for 22 months – it really is incredible to birth twins.

Elephant calves weigh approximately 200 pounds at birth and stand 3 feet tall. They will nurse until they are 10 years old, drinking ten gallons of milk a day. The herd, as according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) consists of  12 to 20 elephants and is led by a matriarch, usually the oldest female. The herd stays together for life. 

Another special reason to celebrate twin babies is the fact that the number of elephants, according to Time Travel Turtle, is dwindling. As there are presently 2,500 to 4,000 elephants in Sri Lanka and the herd diminishes every year, the WWF has placed the elephant on their endangered list. 

Most elephants live until they are 70, so if one day you are on safari in Sri Lanka, look out for twins. You will enjoy a rare and beautiful sight, for there is now only one set of twins at this one “Great Gathering” happening just once a year.

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NICOLE NATHAN BEM, CONTRIBUTOR
Nicole is an editor, blogger and author who has recently left her urban life in order to be more connected with nature. In her spare time, she’s outdoors hiking in the forest, mountain biking or tending to her new permaculture garden.