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In a heartwarming display, a mighty herd of elephants huddles around a female to protect her from prowling lions and hyenas as she gives birth.
The amazing pictures were taken in the early hours at the Amboseli National Park in Kenya at the start of the month.
Teamwork: The caring elephants create an impenetrable barrier protecting the mother as she gives birth to a calf in the Amboseli National Park in Kenya
Wildlife photographer Paolo Torchio noticed the unusual behaviour on a morning drive and was staggered as he watched the drama unfold over the course of an hour.
The protective group circled the mother, scratching the soil with their enormous feet and closing any gap between them to block the view of any potential predators.
Moments after the birth, the calf can be seen clutching the tusk of an adult with its trunk as it staggers to its feet for the very first time.
A prowling hyena is forced to slink away after members of the herd stamp and sling dust into the air to ward it off.
Do not disturb: The herd throws grass and soil all over the area. Photographer Paolo Torchio believes this behaviour may be to hide the smell of the blood and the placenta, and to ward off predators like hyenas and lions.
Bodyguards: An animal would have to be either very brave or very stupid to tangle with this lot
Paolo said: ‘We observed an unusual tight congregation.
‘All those elephants were in high agitation, seriously nervous, and closing the formation shoulder to shoulder.
‘A strong wall of muscles and tusks that can scare any kind of other animal.
‘This is the formation they are normally taking in only two cases: under attack by predators like lions, or during the birth of a new elephant.’
‘After 22 months of pregnancy the moment arrived’.
The Amboseli National Park covers 3,100 square miles across the Kenya-Tanzania border.
The park is famous for being the best place in Africa to get close to free-ranging elephants.
Paolo added: ‘It was incredible, because to witness the birth of an elephant in the wild is almost impossible.
‘This is because it is impossible to predict the exact moment.
Curious: The mother and other adult elephants hover over the calf moments after it is born
Let’s have a look: The herd circles around to catch a first glimpse of the new arrival
I’m down here: The calf raises its little head and trunk off the ground for the first time as the other elephants continue to keep guard
Give us a hand: The newborn clutches the tusk of an older elephant as it staggers to its feet for the very first time
Hello mum: The new arrival pops up to give its mother a tender kiss on the cheek
‘It is almost impossible to determine if an elephant is pregnant or not. So, what was happening in front of us was really the most intimate and secret event in the elephant’s life.’
‘At about 7:30 am the elephants started trumpeting as though they were welcoming the new arrival,’ said Paolo.
‘Five minutes later we had the first glimpse of the new born between the legs of the giant animals.’
Huddled shoulder to shoulder in close formation, the elephants began thrusting mud around, it is believed, to put off predators off the scent of blood.
Now hear this: The herd proudly trumpets the arrival of their latest member
‘All the elephants were very, very, exited, and were digging the soil with the tusks and feet,’ said Paolo.
‘Also they were throwing grass and soil all over in an attempt , I can only suppose, to hide the smell of the blood and the placenta, and confuse possible predators.’
Creating an impenetrable wall around the calf, the adults, which included other females, attempted to help the youngster to its feet.
‘It was amazing to observe the unity of the family, with all the other female trying to help the new born,
‘At 8:15 am, almost one hour after birth, finally the new born elephant stood up with his mother and got a deserved drink of milk!’
By DANIEL MILLER at the Daily Mail