Some weeks ago, just after after our arrival from the US we visited very famous spot in Nairobi where one can see baby elephants. This famous elephant orhanage is a Kenyan wildlife conservation charity founded in 1977 in memory of David Sheldrik by his widow Daphne Sheldrik. It assists and advises the Kenya Wildlife Service and manages an orphanage for elephants and rhinos.
A lot of Elephants are killed by poachers nowadays in Kenya. Therefore many baby elephants become orphans. But elephants are like human children, they can not survive in the wild by themselves. That is why this orphanage is so unique and important to the conservation of wild life in Kenya.
David Leslie William Sheldrick was a famous naturalist, the founder Warden of Tsavo East National Park in Kenya. In the early seventies David Sheldrick succeeded in hand -rearing the very first new-born infant milk-depandant orphaned elephant. Since that time,this Wildlife Trust has successfully rehabilitated back into the wild over 130 orphaned elephants and rescued many other older elephant-orphants, reuniting their with their herds.
The opening hours are daily from 11.00 till 12.00. My tip is to come earlier to occupy stratigicly the best possible place to see baby elephants and to take your time on the premises. We arrived just on time and had to stand in the second raw, which was not very comfortable to take photos.
Before coming you may also think about donating or adopting a baby-elephant. If you want to have an extra access to your baby-elephant daily from 5.00 till 6.00, recieve monthly your baby's diaries and update about its life - you are welcome. The adoption certificate for a year, a photo with your elephant and evening opening hours will cost you 50$ per year.
Just on time small elephants started coming. They didn't seem tiny at all but the way they run to the milk one can guess that these were babies. There were 2 groups of elephants that changed after half an hour. And the keeper told us about each elephant, about their age, location found, reasons of being an orphan. He told also a lot of interesting information about elephants, their lifestyle, challenges in their lives.
He said that every baby-elephant arrive at the Trust severely traumatised by the events that have caused the separation from his mother. The infant inevitably enters a period of deep grieveng for its lost loved ones, which can last for months.
Baby elephants can not drink cow-milk, because they can die. So for successfully rearing a new-born elephant throught its first very fragile few months they use special baby formula, comprised of vegetable oils with additional Calcium, Magnesium, Vitamin C, coconut and cooked oatmeat porrige.
A human family (the keepers) replace the lost elephant family and stay with the orphans 24 hours a day, sleeping with the infants during the night on a rotational basis. To a baby elephant who is emotionally fragile, it is the family aspect that is all important. The keepers must work rotationally to avoid a calf becoming too attached to any one person.
The orphans must be watched at all times and their keepers must protect them with blankets when cold, rainwear when wet and sunscreen and an umbrella when exposed to sun during the first 2 months of life.
Like human children, baby elephants need toys and stimulation. Highly intelligent, with a giant memory, they can duplicate human children in many ways. The keepers take the orphans on walks in varied surroundings with unlimited eccess to Nature's toys such as sticks and stones, plus artificial playthings such as rubber tunes and balls.
If the orphans arethriing at the age of 2, they are transferred to Tsavo National Park, along with the keepers. It is during this key stage that they begin the gradual process of reintegration back into the wild with elepnant community, with days spent walking with the keepers far in the bush, encountering the scent of wild herds. After their days in the bush, they then re-join their keepers to return to Night Stockades where they can be protected against attack by predators whilst still vulnerable.It can take between 5-10 years of keeper dependancy before an orphaned elephant can fully integrate into the wild herds of Tsavo. The length of time this process takes is largely determined by the age of the elephant calf when orphaned and their own unique personalities.
The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust has also the Black Rhino orphans. Rhinos are extremely sophisticated and successfull animals. Sadly, rhino horn, which is merely compressed hair or keratin, is highly valued in the Far East and Arab countries for medicinal and afrodisiatic purposes, further encouraging the devastating poaching industry in Kenya. Rhinos are solitary by nature and fiercely territorial, their lives governed entirely by scent, hearing and phenomenal memory. Their eyesight is poor, simply because it is seldom needed since all the other senses are so acute and predominate.
Since the life of these ancient beings is governed by scent, it is through scent that introductions to other rhinos must be made. The relocation of hand-raised rhinos into an established wild community is a lenthy and complicated process, which can take up to 3 years. only then can one risk allowing an orphaned rhino free range at night.
Now there is one absolutely blind rhino at the Trust. He will never leave the Trust because he won't manage to protect himself in the wild. Here in Kenya it is especially sad and depressing to see animals in cages. I felt so sorry for that lonely blind rhino.
As a conclusion I want to thank this Trust for their work in the sphere of wildlife husbandry and ethics.
For more information about The David Sgeldrick Wildlife Trust, its projects, units, updates, photos, videos, diaries do not hesitate to visit their site.