The tourist group were on an African safari, so they expected to see something special. The opportunity came when they spotted a herd of elephants crossing the dusty road ahead. The witnesses got their cameras ready and watched as a baby turned to look at them.
The African continent is generally considered home to safari tours, and many people dream of taking one. Although nowadays safaris are largely an experience for animal lovers to peacefully observe nature, that wasn’t always the case. Indeed, the trips used to be far more deadly.
That’s because safaris were mostly taken by big-game hunters, who wanted the opportunity to shoot exotic animals. The practice still exists today, but many animals in Africa are protected. The general public often frowns upon hunting them for sport, even if it’s not completely illegal.
For example, on July 1, 2015, a dentist called Walter Palmer shot a Southern African lion in the Hwange National Park. The lion’s name was Cecil. Not only was he a park attraction, but the University of Oxford was also studying him.
Cecil died the next day, and the internet widely condemned Palmer for his actions. Zimbabwe authorities stated that the dentist hadn’t acted illegally. However, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service classified lions from central and western Africa and from India Africa as endangered species shortly after Cecil’s death.
Elephants are another animal under threat from humans, who hunt the majestic animals for their tusks. Ivory, the substance that elephant tusks are made of, is a valuable material on the black market. Craftspeople use it to create white jewelry and decorations.
As a result of threats to their numbers, governments protect elephants by law in a lot of countries. However, poachers haven’t stopped hunting them down for profit. And there’s an extra element of sadness to the elephants’ plight.
Animal abuse is heart-breaking in any situation, but it’s even more so in the case of intelligent creatures. African elephants meet that criterion due to the advanced neocortex in their brains. The same development is evident in apes, some types of dolphin and humans.
But an elephant’s brain size isn’t the only trait they share with humans. They also have a wide range of recognizable emotions. Researchers have observed them using tools, playing with each other, displaying a sense of humor and even grieving for their dead.
Catching incredible moments of elephant emotion on camera is one of the joys of safari. A tourist did just that in winter 2009, and the adorable footage went viral. It began when the cameraperson decided to spend the cold festive period in beautiful warm Africa.
The group were passing along a dirt road with a watering hole close by when they saw something amazing. A troop of elephants walked right across the road in front of them. One of the tourists grabbed their camera and caught the event on film.
Apparently, seven elephants crossed the dirt path but the video only shows three: two babies and an adult. However, the footage reveals an incredible moment with the smallest – and presumably the youngest – elephant. As they walk past, the baby notices its audience.
The little calf seems transfixed by the tourists and slows its pace to stare at them. It almost stops, but then something takes hold of it. For the briefest second, it stops stock still. Is there something wrong with the baby?
Suddenly, the calf starts to shake, like there’s a current running all the way through it. Its body trembles uncontrollably, its trunk twitching as it does so. The changes occurring even affect its ears, which pull back in surprise.
A few seconds later, the baby elephant sneezes through its tiny trunk with the cutest husky trumpet sound! Perhaps the dust kicked up by the dirt trail got into its nose and irritated it. Whatever the cause, it alarms Baby.
The calf is spooked by its reaction, running after the adult elephant as a result. But the human onlookers find the innocent creature’s response both heart-melting and entertaining. They can’t help bursting with laughter as Baby dashes off.
When it catches up with its troop the elephant shows its shy side, hiding behind its parent. The adult elephant stops at the roadside, seemingly oblivious to the tourists. For their part, the onlookers’ laughter continues while they discuss what they’ve just seen.
“Please tell me someone got that on video,” one of the tourists asks the group. As another says that she did, the rest can’t get over the sweet baby elephant. You can hear a woman cooing, “Oh my gosh,” in the background.
The safari group weren’t the only ones who found the little calf irresistible, either. Social media users have viewed the video 1,676,365 times on Rumble since its original upload. In addition, it has 12,000 likes, and it’s easy to see why.
Elephants are wonderful creatures, and as a keystone species, they are integral to the environment. Unfortunately, between habitat loss, human conflict and poaching, they’re also very vulnerable. If you want to do your part to save these intelligent creatures, visit savetheelephants.org to see how you can help.