Pink elephant spotted in Botswana

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Friday, March 20, 2009

A baby pink elephant was sighted in the African country of Botswana on Friday by a filmmaker for the BBC as he was filming for a wildlife documentary. The cameraman took photographs of the elephant when he noticed it in a herd of around eighty elephants in the Okavango Delta. According to experts, it is most likely an albino, an occurrence that is very rare among African elephants.

"We only saw it for a couple of minutes as the herd crossed the river", said Mike Holding, who spotted the elephant. "This was a really exciting moment for everyone in camp. We knew it was a rare sighting - no-one could believe their eyes."

"I have only come across three references to albino calves, which have occurred in Kruger National Park in South Africa," said ecologist Mike Chase, who is in charge of the Elephants Without Borders conservation charity. "This is probably the first documented sighting of an albino elephant in northern Botswana. We have been studying elephants in the region for nearly 10 years now, and this is the first documented evidence of an albino calf that I have come across."

The ecologist said that the condition might make it hard for the animal to survive for very long. "What happens to these young albino calves remains a mystery. Surviving this very rare phenomenon is very difficult in the harsh African bush. The glaring sun may cause blindness and skin problems," he noted.

However, he added that it still might be possible for the elephant to survive, as it appears to be adapting to the condition: "Because this elephant calf was sighted in the Okavango Delta, he may have a greater chance of survival. He can seek refuge under the large trees and cake himself in a thick mud, which will protect him from the sun," Dr Chase noted.

"Already the two-to-three-month-old calf seems to be walking in the shade of its mother. This behaviour suggests it is aware of its susceptibility to the harsh African sun, and adapted a unique behaviour to improve its chances of survival."