Wallowing in the mud is glorious fun for elephants young and old. But when you’re still only a 𝑏𝑎𝑏𝑦, trying to stand up again in all that lovely slippery stuff when playtime is over takes a mammoth effort. Just look at this adorable little chap. After fighting a losing battie to get back on his feet on his own, which saw him land unceremoniously on his backside, there was only one thing for it – make a trunk call to mum. The 𝑏𝑎𝑏𝑦’s trᴜmpet for help was captured in these photographs taken during a torrential downpour in the rainy season in the Maasai Mara game reserve in Kenya.
A sudden downpour came, the 𝑏𝑎𝑏𝑦 elephant showed great interest. Baby elephants are especially fond of water and bathing in mud. Water acts as an insect repellent and sunblock. Clearly enjoying itself, the elephant even goes for a roll in the brown waters, but it is still too big to be fully sᴜʙmerged. But the water and mud are too slippery, the African elephant, thought to be aged six months to one year, had tᴏppʟeᴅ ᴏᴠer and was becoming ever more caked in mud as he thrashed around.
Poor little fellow was left in a slippery position after a deluge in the Maasai Mara. It looks like it’s begging for help: “This mud bath has gone wrong mum, I can’t get up! I’m trying, Mum, but I just can’t make it.” The young animal struggles to get to his feet but is getting exhausted and ever muddier.
But it wasn’t long before his mum came to the resᴄᴜe, moving nearer so he could shelter under her massive frame before ensuring that his next attempt to get up – using her legs for support in the sodden conditions – was successful. Mum to the resᴄᴜe as she shelters her son and uses her foot to nudge him upright. Eventually, he was upright again and they were able to move off together – but it wasn’t long before she sat back down for a relaxing bath herself and a much-deserved rest.
Wɪʟᴅʟɪꜰe photographer Andy Rouse captured the charming sequence of images while trailing migrating wildebeest. He said: “We saw a group of elephants go high-tailing it past quite fast. When it’s raining they know areas which are going to flood and be really good for mud wallowing. They slid right into this waterlogged patch of ground and were loving it. They were in the wallow for about 30 minutes. They like frolicking in the mud, and getting mud on their skin also protects them from the sun and insect ʙɪtes. But for the little ones getting up again can be a ɴɪɢʜtmᴀre. It took this one about five minutes. He managed it after finding shelter between his mother’s legs. Her legs gave him something solid to back up against so he could stand up. It was really comical to watch, and also a very beautiful and very special experience for everyone.”
African elephants, which live for up to 70 years in the wild, are slightly bigger than their Asian cousins and are the largest land animals on Earth. Having a 𝑏𝑎𝑏𝑦 is a serious commitment for elephants, with females usually giving 𝐛𝐢𝐫𝐭𝐡 to one calf every two to four years after a preɢɴᴀɴᴄʏ of 22 months, a longer preɢɴᴀɴᴄʏ than any other mᴀmmᴀʟ. So if it takes a few extra minutes to help junior out of the mud, little wonder mum’s only too happy to wait.