By Freya Coombes

THESE CLOSE-UP photos show a talented elephant throwing a ‘mud ring’ from its trunk while cooling down in the hot weather.

One photo shows an elephant curling the muddy water round as it plays with the water, cooling itself off in the process.

These incredible photos were taken by professional photographer Simon Needham (56) at the HERD Orphanage in South Africa.

HERD is the first dedicated South African elephant orphanage. Due to the rise in poaching, there is an increase in the number of orphaned and displaced elephant calves left to fend for themselves.

HERD is able to step in and place the young elephants into an adoptive family, creating a safe environment for the calves.

“The Herd goes for a long walk every day and as part of this walk there is a beautiful water hole, they spend an hour playing around in,” said Simon.

“There is an amazing sense of intelligence and understanding when standing close to these magnificent creatures.

“It’s a privilege to have the kind of access I get through photography.”

The African elephant can grow over 13 feet tall and weigh upwards of 13,000 pounds.

Elephants only sleep for around two hours in 24 hours, having the lowest sleep times of any animal.

“To see elephants genuinely happy is so fulfilling for me and to give my time to photograph for Sanctuaries that truly help support wildlife issues is the least I can do,” said Simon.

“It always feels great to be photographing wildlife.

“I think there are many people in the world that love and want to help wildlife so it’s great to get such positive feedback from the pics.”

To view Simon’s work visit www.simonneedham.com