All across the world, there seems to be an elephant baby boom. Zoos across the United States have announced the arrival of their little ones. One of those zoos is the Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, which now has two African elephant calves.
On the other side of the world, in Nairobi, Kenya, twin elephants were born in the Samburu National Reserve. Conservationists state that this is the second time the local charity Save the Elephants has ever seen a set of twins.
Why is this only the second time? Can elephants have twins? Our African elephant breeding team wants to answer these and other questions down below.
Can elephants have twins?
Yes! Elephants are capable of having twins. However, the percentage of twin births is fairly low. Only one percent of elephant pregnancies result in twins. It is hypothesized that this reason is that mother elephants do not have enough milk to keep two elephants alive—the likelihood of both calves surviving decreases. Elephant calves rely heavily on their mother’s milk for the first few years of their life.
The pregnancy of an elephant
One of the questions many people have is how long is an elephant’s pregnancy? Elephants have one of the longest gestation periods of all mammals. These animals are pregnant for an average of 22 months or 680 days. However, the period of gestation also depends on the kind of elephant. Asian elephants tend to have shorter gestation periods than African elephants.
The reason why elephants have such long gestation periods is due to their size and intelligence. Elephants are large land mammals; when they are born, they weigh around 200 pounds. Plus, they are highly intelligent and require a longer time to fully develop their brains.
How many babies do elephants have?
Elephants usually have one baby at a time. As stated above, elephants can have twins, but those instances are very rare. After the calf is born, the mother usually dedicates four to five years to raising their calf. During this time, they provide milk and teach their young everything they need to survive in the wild.
Why is it important to understand an elephant’s pregnancy?
In case you have not heard, elephants are at risk of being lost forever. African savanna elephants and Asian elephants are listed as endangered. On the other hand, African forest elephants are listed as critically endangered. Elephant populations are declining due to a combination of poaching, human encroachment and habitat loss.
Their ecosystems would suffer greatly because elephants provide plant diversity and create watering holes and homes for smaller animals. To help restore and maintain elephant populations, we need first to understand elephant pregnancies. That is why at For Elephants we are conducting endocrine research to better understand elephant pregnancies.
Support our African elephant breeding program!
At For Elephants, we are helping to better understand elephant pregnancy with our endocrine research. We study elephant biology so we can improve zoo elephant fertility rates and zoo management. You can help our research by joining our Herd of Heroes program. Join down below.