See animals in a zoo is great if you live in an area where there isn’t much wildlife but coming to Africa is a completely different experience. Seeing these big animals roaming the plains of the Maasai Mara was amazing.
When we came back to Nairobi, we were told about this elephant orphanage where they care for baby elephants. But how are they found? Do they take them away from their families? Why are the baby elephants orphaned and how do they know they’re orphaned? These were all questions I would ask myself because we had never heard of this. So we decided to give it a try. Everyone seemed to love it and speak very highly of this place so, why not?
Now, we all know poaching is bad but, when you see the results of it for yourself you obtain a whole new perspective on how horrible it truly is. At the Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage you get to see and hear the stories of how these babies were found and the conditions they were found in. Let me warn you now… It will break your heart to see and hear the stories of how they were found. You will then gain a profound respect for what this organization and others like this one do for these animals.
David Sheldrick was the inspiration of this wonderful place. But the trust was founded by his wife, Dr. Dame Daphne Sheldrick D.B.E. in 1977 after her husband passed to honor his memory and passion for saving these animals. The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust is now one of the most successful elephant-orphanages in the world. If you visit their website, you’ll find tabs on topics with more detailed information like fostering, anti-poaching and conservation. As well as, more information on them and what they do. You can see who the newest rescue is, pictures of them and even track their progress! It’s truly an amazing organization to check out and help out if it’s in your reach.
In order for you to pay a visit to this shelter, you must be there right before 11:00am in order to make it inside on time. The park is only open for one hour, from 11:00am to 12:00pm, to introduce them to the public. In this short time, you will be watching the handlers or keepers bottle feed them a special human baby formula they purchase from the UK. You might ask, why human baby formula? Why not another animal’s milk? This is because there is no way possible to milk an adult elephant and any other animal’s milk is too harsh on their stomachs or digestive system. An elephant’s stomach/digestive system is extremely sensitive and human baby formula is the only thing that they can digest normally without getting the runs and possibly dehydrating and dying later on.
During this time, they also allow them to meet you and play around the pen in water and mud. While the babies are playing and getting to know us, there is one handler/keeper that is speaking to the public. He introduces them one by one, giving us their name and each one’s story of how they were found. Most of these precious babies were found alone due to their mother’s being killed by poachers. Others were found alone in water wells unable to get out on their own. Some were even found dying of starvation or injured and barely breathing. But thanks to this wonderful group, they were found and are on their way to a better, healthy life.
How long do they stay in the shelter? They stay as long as they need to. Usually, they’re in this shelter for some years. But, they don’t just let them go. These elephants are now dependent on these people. So, how is it done? It’s quite a process. When they start to let them go, the elephant will only be out for a few hours and come back at night to sleep. Then it gradually turns into a day, then into a few days out of the camp, to a few weeks out at a time. This is all time that the elephant decides. They return because they are not accustomed to being alone. In fact, during the time they are in the camp/shelter, they are assigned at minimum, 2 handlers/keepers, per baby, to be with them at all times, even while they sleep. Sometimes they will go out a for a few months, making you think they are gone for good but all of sudden, here they are again. Once they are gone for good, they will stay out for years at a time and yet, still return to say hello. “They come back with their young and even when they or their family is injured because they know where they can get help”, they explained.
It’s truly amazing to hear stories of how grateful these animals how after going through such horrible moments in their lives when young. An elephant lives almost as long as humans and their memory is incredible. They remember who treated them kindly and who treated them poorly. They are extremely intelligent animals and should never have to be put in these positions all because of man’s greed. We need to help stop poaching.
After the hour was up, they would take you through their small store where you could shop for t-shirts and small souvenirs. The money you’d spend here would go toward supplies needed for the shelter, repairs, food, medicine and generally helping the shelter stay open to help these poor orphaned elephants and get them back out into the wild. You also had the option to adopt one. This means you’re personally contributing to helping one of these babies getting better. If you did decide to adopt, you would pick your favorite and had the option to schedule a private appointment which would allow you to visit that baby and play with them one on one.
After adopting one, they give you a nice little certificate and a little pamphlet with your baby’s story and how old they think your baby is. By adopting one, you are paying a yearly fee to save that baby elephant. What are you waiting for? Adopt a baby today!