Cuteness alert: A female baby elephant was born Aug. 9 in Indonesia’s Tesso Nilo National Park, the World Wildlife Fund announced.
The Tesso Nilo calf’s mother is 35 years old and a trooper: She was pregnant for 20-22 months before giving birth to the 90-kilo (198-pound) baby only a few days before World Elephant Day, according to the animal conservation organization.
The calf’s mother is part of an elite team of critically endangered Sumatran elephants and their handlers who protect villages from coming into conflict with nearby wild elephants.
Only four elephants have been born to the group since it was established by the World Wildlife Fund and Indonesia's Ministry of Forestry in 2004.
The so-called Flying Squad is made up of four trained adult elephants and their eight handlers, called mahouts, who deploy noisemakers, lights and a truck to drive back the wild elephants who try to enter local villages.
Four of these squads exist in Riau Province — where the palm oil, pulp and paper industries have resulted in “some of the world’s most rapid rates of deforestation” — leading hungry elephants to leave the shrinking forests to seek out crops from local villages for food.
The peace-keeping teams of elephants and people work to avoid conflict between people in struggling communities and the elephant population, which is dealing with a smaller habitat and limited food sources.
“The Flying Squad is a highly successful model for reducing conflict between people and elephants in a way that is safe for everyone,” Christy Williams, WWF’s Asian rhino and elephant program manager said in a statement.
“Human-elephant conflict is a problem in many elephant habitats across Asia and in Africa. We are hoping that with greater resources we can establish even more squads in order to prevent elephant and human deaths that don’t need to happen. People and elephants can live in harmony,” she added.
It’s unclear whether "Junior" will join the Flying Squad when she gets older. Right now, it’s enough just to keep up with mom.
- Nature & Environment
- World Wildlife Fund
- Tesso Nilo National Park