March 20, 2009

Camera Crew Captures Footage Of Pink Elephant Calf

A wildlife cameraman captured pictures of a pink baby elephant in Botswana, BBC News reported.

The calf was spotted among a herd of about 80 elephants in the Okavango Delta and experts believe it is probably an albino "” an extremely rare phenomenon in African elephants.

However, some fear for the calf's chances of long-term survival, as the harsh African sunlight could cause blindness and skin problems for the calf.

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

Albino elephants usually give off more of a reddish-brown or pink hue than the traditional white. Albinism is fairly common in Asian elephants but much less common in the larger African species.

"I have only come across three references to albino calves, which have occurred in Kruger National Park in South Africa," said ecologist Dr. Mike Chase, who runs conservation charity Elephants Without Borders.

Chase said it was probably the first documented sighting of an albino elephant in northern Botswana, as he and his team have been studying elephants in the region for nearly 10 years.

He said researchers are not sure what normally happens with albino calves.

"Surviving this very rare phenomenon is very difficult in the harsh African bush. The glaring sun may cause blindness and skin problems," Chase said.

Fortunately, he said the pink calf already seemed to be learning to adapt to its 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," Chase explained.

He said the two-to-three-month-old calf seems to be walking in the shade of its mother, suggesting it is aware of its susceptibility to the harsh African sun, and has adapted a unique behavior to improve its survival chances.

"I have learned that elephants are highly adaptable, intelligent and masters of survival," Chase said.


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