This is a story by one of our professional Maasai guides, Ping who is based at Mara Plains. He managed to capture this incredible sighting during one of his game drives in the Olare Motorogi conservancy where Mara Plains is based.
Is this Placentophagy? Early this year on the open plains above our camp I heard a huge vocalization from the Elephants. I was at the time watching the Moniko female lions finishing up a zebra kill, I rushed there as I knew there should be something exciting happening. I found a family of elephants – youngsters and adults grouped together; they were uneasy, excited and all had produced a secretion from their glands. Looking below them I saw a newly born baby. All the trumpeting it seems, was a greeting or congratulatory message being passed on.
After an hour of watching all of this, I saw the placenta on the ground. I was tempted to go down and fence it off with grass and leaves as we believe in Maasai culture that once you fence it off and make a gate you will be very wealthy. This was not to happen – the females came back and one started sniffing the placenta and picked it up. I thought she was going to eat it but she started tossing it around all over the place and rubbing it on her back. Eventually she left it on the ground for the vultures to enjoy.
What was so interesting is that members of the family who heard the vocalization came down in a line raising their trunks up and on reaching where the baby was started greeting the baby and Mum ,maybe saying “Hongera”, congratulations.