This is the adorable moment when a herd of elephants – who were almost wiped out by hunters less than a century ago – gets a lucky mud bath.
A herd of 100 African wild elephants was playing in a muddy waterhole at Addo Elephant National Park in South Africa’s Eastern Cape province.
About 15 baby elephants formed a herd splashing in the mud, with one taking a tumble as it tried to climb out of the waterhole, all under the supervision of an adult, who eventually pulled the young out of the water.
The animals were recently captured by professional photographer and documentary filmmaker Nic van Oudtshoorn from Sydney, Australia.
He said: ‘It was a hot, sunny morning, and I was filming birdlife at a large waterhole in Addo Park when a massive herd of elephants – a hundred at least, maybe more – come and plunge straight into the water.
‘There are at least 15 small calves. I was only about 200 yards away while flying up a bit and filming with a powerful telephoto lens. Since this is a trendy national park, the elephants are used to humans and are not inhibited by my presence.
‘Even from that distance the trumpeting, snorting, and splashing was loud as the elephants sprayed mud all over their bodies while rolling around and playfully butting their heads and bodies together.
‘Some even stir the water with their feet to create more mud. Particularly touching was the care taken to ensure the young calves were safe, the older elephants sometimes restraining them when they get boisterous.
‘It was fun to watch little kids slip and slide in the mud, especially as they try to get out of the water and onto the shore.
‘As temperatures in Addo soar, mud baths like these help the elephants cool down. The dry mud protects their sensitive skin from sunburn as they roam the veldt.
‘Elephants don’t have sweat glands, so mud doesn’t stop perspiration. Instead, when elephants overheat, they pump blood through their giant ears that function like radiators in car engines.
‘Their fun lasted for about 40 minutes before they began to leave the waterhole and walk.
‘In my many years of filming wildlife, this has been one of my loveliest and most memorable experiences.’