A mother elephant recently gave birth to twins in Sri Lanka. And that’s much rarer than you’d think.
Twenty-four-year-old Surangi, an elephant at the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage, gave birth to two healthy male calves on Aug. 31. The first arrived at 4:30 a.m. and the second at 10 a.m., according to a Facebook post from the facility. The father, Pandu, is a fellow resident of the government-run elephant residence.
You can see the newborns with their mother in this video from news service Reuters.
Only about 1% of elephant births are twins, slightly less than our human rate of 1.6%, according to the Society for the Protection of Animals Abroad (SPANNA). A baby elephant can weigh between 200 and 270 pounds, so it’s hard for a mother elephant to carry twins safely.
It’s been 80 years since the last twin elephants were born in semi-domestication in the South Asian island nation.
More twin births have been recorded in African than Asian elephants, though a set of twins born in the wild in Minneriya National Park was spotted in 2020. This was the first time live elephant twins were recorded in Sri Lanka.
This was Surangi‘s second pregnancy. She had her firstborn, Kanaka, also a male, in 2009. He still lives at Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage. Surangi came to the elephant facility as a 1-year-old and has been there ever since.
“Both the calves and the mother are doing fine,” said Renuka Bandaranaike, the head of the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage, in a BBC report. “The babies are relatively small, but they are healthy.”
The Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage announced the births on their Facebook page:
The operations of the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage have been controversial in the past. Some organizations, influenced by animal rights activists, argue that the rescued elephants brought there are sometimes kept in chains during the males’ aggressive “musth” period, can be disciplined with a sharp-hooked traditional tool called an ankus and are displayed and bred as a money-making tourist attraction. Elephant captivity itself remains a very loaded topic both here and abroad, with cultural as well as ethical issues coming into play.
The orphanage continues to post photos of the newborn twin males on its social media. In the photos below, they’re being visited by government officials. They also got documented when they were getting checked out by a veterinarian. Seems they are getting a lot of attention!
Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage opened in 1975 and currently has 93 elephants.