World falls in love with South African baby elephant

A video of a baby elephant playing with low-flying swallows in South Africa’s Kruger National Park has become a huge hit on YouTube. Uploaded in late July, it has received over 7 million views to date and has been popular across the world. The ad revenue is also being put to good use.

Image description A baby elephant in the Kruger National Park was filmed playing with birds. (Image: Screengrab via YouTube)


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Priya Pitamber

A video of a baby elephant playing with birds in South Africa’s Kruger National Park has gone viral.

The video was taken by Dr Susan Webb, an academic at the University of the Witwatersrand’s School of Geoscience, while she was on safari. It was uploaded to YouTube on 28 July by Latest Sightings, the online platform that crowd sources animal sightings from the park. Since then, it has received over 7 million views, to date.

“We stopped to watch a large herd of elephants cross the road,” recalled Webb. “There were lots of mothers and babies. Suddenly this little one popped on to the road by himself. As I was filming with a movie camera I was looking at the tiny screen and the baby looked very awkward.

“I thought he had stepped on his trunk, but instead he was chasing the birds! At the time I thought it was very cute, and I remember hoping I had pushed record.”

She had no idea the video would become so popular. She credited Latest Sightings for its performance. “Nadav Ossendryver, from Latest Sightings, timed it perfectly – I think people were looking for something uplifting after all of the bad news about Cecil the lion,” Webb said.

In the week the video was uploaded, the news of Cecil the lion being hunted and killed in Zimbabwe had caused global outrage.

Latest Sightings wrote below the video: “With this week being so sad after the loss of a great animal, Cecil the lion, we thought we would cheer everyone up with a video that will make you cry of happiness, rather than sadness.

“Such a cute video of a tiny new-born elephant trying to chase away the low flying swallows that are around him.”

Go on, watch the video here:

Well-received

The US’s Time magazine wrote that the video reminded people there were good things happening in the world.

“There is a whole lot of ugliness and despair in this world, but occasionally, something will happen to remind us that not everything is terrible,” its website reads. “Some things are actually wonderful. Like this baby elephant in South Africa who was spotted playing with birds.”

And American news and entertainment website Buzzfeed dared people not to squeal in glee as they watched the clip.

Commenting on the video, Nikz K wrote “How can anyone dislike this video? It’s just pure happiness.” And Sue G described the baby elephant as a “little darling… Just innocently playing”.

Ad revenue

Revenue earned from the advertisements placed on the video has contributed to the Wits Geoscience Alumni Scholarship as well as to an elephant research project.

“We set up the scholarship as a number of students in our department were in danger of not completing their studies due to the crisis in the financial aid system,” said Webb. She thought it was a novel fundraising idea and a way to get students to think about creative funding.

“For the elephant research project we are recording the seismic signal of elephants,” she explained. “The goal is to assist with reducing the conflict between humans and elephants.”