Elephant Twins! Is this Even Possible?

Written by Cindy Rasmussen
Published: October 15, 2021
Image Credit Saranga/Shutterstock.com
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Elephant babies are BIG babies! The average elephant baby is 200lbs at birth. That is about the same size as a grown man. The babies are born after a long gestation, the longest of all mammals, 18-22 months and can stand up within an hour of being born. They have to be able to stand up in order to reach their mom’s bellies to suckle. Baby elephants are 3 feet tall when they are born and will grow to be 6-13 feet tall depending on what type of elephant they are. With babies that big is it even possible for a mother to carry elephant twins? That would be 400lbs of baby! Let’s see if that is possible.

Twin Elephants Were Recently Born in Sri Lanka

Elephant twins - two baby elephants
Two baby elephants. Even as newborns elephants weigh 200 pounds!

Saranga/Shutterstock.com

“Twin elephants born in Sri Lanka in rare occurrence”, reads the headline from September 1, 2021.

At the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage in Sri Lanka, a set of twin elephants were born to a 25-year-old mother elephant named Surangi. Both twins and the mother were reported as being fine. Both twins were shown in a video around their mother’s legs. The last recorded twin birth to a domesticated elephant in Sri Lanka was back in 1941, 80 years ago! Only 1% of elephant pregnancies result in twins.

Human twins are born at more than three-fold the rate of elephant twins!

Compared to humans, twin births account for 3.21% of live births in the U.S. and 1.6 million twins are born each year worldwide. That is to say, twins in humans are more than three times more common than twins in elephants!

There has been a huge increase in the number of twin births in the world due to medical interventions and IVF, but it is hypothesized that the number of naturally occurring twin births has remained constant.

Elephant Twins Rarely Survive to Adulthood

Elephant twins - two baby elephants with mother
Two baby elephants with their mother

Jacktamrong/Shutterstock.com

Curve the elephant gives birth to rare twins in South Africa” reads another headline!

At the Pongola Game Reserve in Pongola, South Africa, a set of twins were reported being born in 2014. An elephant specialist, Dr. Ian Whyte, says that having twins is rare, but it is even more rare that both twins survive into adulthood. The reason is that the mother has to produce enough milk to feed both elephants. If she can’t, the dominant twin will not let the other twin access the milk.

“Against the odds, rare African elephant twins are thriving!” a headline from 2018.

Eloise, a 57-year-old elephant in Tarangire National Park, in Tanzania gave birth to twins and eight months later they were reported as still being alive and thriving. This group of wild elephants is being monitored by researchers for the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). The researchers believe that Eloise is the herd’s matriarch and may be the oldest elephant recorded to have twins. The twin elephants have been named, “Emma” and “Elon Tusk”!

Kenya: Amboseli National Park budding twin baby elephants are lovable!

This story reports about another set of twin elephants that were doing well. They were two-months-old at the time of this report. What was interesting about the twins at the Amboseli National Park was they were able to observe that the twins had an older sister! The three elephants traveled together near their mother. If the mother stepped away it seemed the older sister baby sat! The twins and their older sister belong to one of the 58 families of elephants of the total 1,600 at the park.

So although twin elephants are rare they are definitely newsworthy!

Elephant twins - two baby elephants

Saranga/Shutterstock.com
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About the Author

I'm a Wildlife Conservation Author and Journalist, raising awareness about conservation by teaching others about the amazing animals we share the planet with. I graduated from the University of Minnesota-Morris with a degree in Elementary Education and I am a former teacher. When I am not writing I love going to my kids' soccer games, watching movies, taking on DIY projects and running with our giant Labradoodle "Tango".

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