20 January 2005

Rare elephant twins watched closely in Port Elizabeth

Twin elephants have been born in Addo Elephant National Park near Port Elizabeth - only the third time that twins have been born in the history of the park.

The baby elephants, now one month old, are both doing well so far, and staff are watching their progress anxiously.

Megan Bradfield, the park's social ecologist, said on Wednesday the second month of life of elephant twins was critical.

"Elephant twins are very rare. We've had two sets of elephant twins born in the park in the past, and in both cases one of the twins died during the second month.

"Elephant mothers don't really have enough milk for two babies, so usually the stronger twin manages to get more milk than the weaker one, and gradually the weaker one loses condition," Bradfield said.

She said there were elephant twins in Kruger National Park which were now three years old, showing they could survive.

The Eastern Cape had had good rains recently, which meant there was plenty of food for the twins' mother, so her milk production should be good.

All three sets of twins born in Addo have been born to the same family herd, to closely-related females.

The twins are called Dawn and Dusk, and their mother is Dina.

"All the Addo elephants are named, not to be cute, but for research so they can be identified.

"Dawn and Dusk come from the family group which all have names that begin with a 'd'," Bradfield said.

Naming the elephants had created one of the most comprehensive family trees in any elephant herd, she said.


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