This is the touching moment when a herd of elephants rushed over to comfort a young elephant who had recently lost his mother.
One-year-old Mukkoka was wandering around all alone and afraid in the Tsavo East National Park in Kenya.
Fortunately for him, the calf was discovered by David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT) rescuers just in time.
When they discovered Mukkoka’s lone footprints in the sand near the Tiva River, they were doing an aerial sweep of the region in a plane.
Unfortunately, they could not locate his mother, and they had no idea what had happened to her.
After spending so much time alone, the baby elephant desperately needed medical attention and a warm glass of milk, which the rescuers quickly provided.
After a few days, when he was starting to feel a little better, his caregivers decided it was the ideal time to expose him to the best medicine of all, some new friends.
The other elephants flocked to the newborn elephant as soon as he was introduced, smothering him in affection. He was now a member of their family.
“They immediately enveloped him and led him out into the forest to meet the rest of the nursery herd,” Rob Brandford, executive director of DSWT, told The Dodo.
“The greeting he was met with was a warm one, with the other babies reaching out their trunks to comfort and welcome Mukkoka as a new family member.”
Elephants are highly social creatures who flourish in communities with other elephants of the same kind. They depend on one another for support and camaraderie, and they all seem to know that Mukkoka needs it the most.
Even though they frequently observe the elephants’ strong familial ties and empathy for others, it was a particularly moving occasion for the humans who care for them.
“Though it is something we have seen time and again, the empathy shown by these elephants never ceases to amaze,” Brandford said.
“Remembering that they too have experienced the loss of their own family, their level of compassion is genuinely heartwarming to watch as they reach out to newly orphaned calves, offering comfort and friendship.”
Mukkoka has experienced the tragic loss of his mother, but he is now in the best position to get ready for his eventual return to the wild. He’ll probably require DSWT’s care for the next ten years until he is returned to a protected wild habitat.
He will be recovering and learning all the ins and outs of being an elephant until then, with support from his loving adoptive family at every turn.
“Touch [is] an important part of welcoming a new family member and making them feel safe,” Brandford added. “This loving interaction helps enormously as the orphans overcome the sense of loss.”