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'Double joy': Rare elephant twins born in Kenya's Samburu National Reserve

@gilbert_sabinga/Save the Elephants

(LONDON) — An elephant in Kenya has given birth to a rare set of twins, conservation group Save the Elephants has announced.

The two baby elephant calves – both female – were born to a mother elephant named Alto in Kenya’s Samburu National Reserve.

“Yet another set of twins have been born in Samburu National Reserve,” Save the Elephants announced in an Instagram post. “Alto from the Clouds has astonished us with her own set of twins. Her two adorable female calves, estimated to be just days old, were first spotted by our researchers in Samburu National Reserve this week.”

Described as “amazing odds,” the birth is the second arrival of twins in Kenya’s Samburu National Reserve in the span of two years. The birth of Alto’s twins follow the recent birth of another set of twin calves – one male and female – from a mother elephant named Bora. The twins from Bora were the first set of twins born in the reserve in decades, Samburu said.

However, born into “one of the worst droughts” experienced in Northern Kenya that led to a shortage of food for wildlife in the region, one of Bora’s twins sadly passed away in November 2022.

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“Twins are rarely encountered in elephant populations – and from only one percent of births,” Save the Elephants said in a statement. “Elephant twins rarely survive in the wild but we’re optimistic about Alto’s twins as there is lots of food in the park following the rains.”

“Alto should be able to produce plenty of milk to feed her hungry brood, plus she also has the amazing support of her herd,” the group said.

Elephants have the longest gestation period among living mammals, lasting 95 weeks on average in the African elephant, according to scientists.

The news of the “double joy” was met with delight in Kenya. The African savanna elephant species is currently listed as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species.

Today, there are an estimated 36,280 elephants in Kenya according to the Kenya Wildlife Service, compared to a population estimated at 170,000 in the early 1980’s.

Threats to elephant populations have included “human-induced” factors such as conflicts over land and resources, poaching and infrastructural developments. Climate change also has posed an increase threat to Kenya’s elephants and other wildlife, who have face an increased frequency in “prolonged” severe droughts, KWS said.

However, things have been looking up: The declining trend in the elephant population in Kenya has reversed with the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) announcing the national elephant population is increasing by over 5% annually.

“Continued monitoring has led to the success,” says the KWS. “Elephants are extremely intelligent, social and emotional animals which have a rich culture and history.”

KWS added, “They deserve our respect and compassion as fellow inhabitants of the Earth.”

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