Baby Elephant and His Doting Collective of Sisters, Cousins, and Aunts

Like all African elephants, this sweet one-day-old babe will be raised by mom as well as his allomothers.

Baby elephant standing among adult elephant legs and trunks
credit: John Vosloo/bioGraphic

Sometimes it takes a village. Or, in the case of African elephants at least, it takes a mom and her female relatives. A newborn elephant's aunts, sisters, and cousins all pitch in to help bring up baby.

Known as allomothers, members of the caring collective use this as a learning experience to prepare for when they have calves of their own. And the lessons go both ways. "While these youngsters turn only to their mothers for milk, they often gain other life skills from their many nannies, learning how to use their unwieldy trunks, find solid food, and steer clear of predators," explains bioGraphic.

The incredible image above of a new baby boy encircled by the protective trunks of his clan was taken by conservation photographer John Vosloo at the Addo Elephant National Park, South Africa.

Because of poaching and habitat loss, the species is now listed by the IUCN as Vulnerable globally. Thankfully, poaching in this park, the third largest in South Africa, is much lower than in unprotected areas. As bioGraphic notes,

"When Addo was established as an elephant sanctuary in 1931, hunting was rampant, and only 11 elephants remained. But thanks to federal protections enforced within the park – and the help of new GPS technology that is helping rangers to pinpoint the location of poachers – the population of elephants is now approaching 700."

And with this latest addition under the watchful care of his mom and nannies, the herd has grown by one more.