letters from nairobi

Elephants on Parade
February 13, 2012, 13:34
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , ,

There are few moments in life when one can stop, look around, and think, “it doesn’t get any better than this.”

On Saturday afternoon, I experienced one of those moments: standing in a field of red clay, under the shining African sun, surrounded by a pack of baby elephants drinking out of oversize milk bottles.

Thanks to a friend of ours who arranged the outing, a group of us were able to visit the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust on a weekend afternoon to witness the elephants’ mid-afternoon feeding and interact with them.

The Trust, which does amazing work with animal conservation, fostering, and community outreach, runs a program that saves the lives of dozens of elephants and rhinos who have been abandoned at an early age. The reasons for abandonment are many: poaching, drought, parental death, and “man-made” interference, to name just a few.

At the time of our visit, the Trust was caring for fifteen baby elephants and a six-year-old blind black rhino named Maxwell. The elephants ranged in age from three months to two-and-a-half years – when an elephant reaches the age of three, he is moved to Tsavo National Park where he’s gradually rehabilitated back into the wild elephant community over a period of eight to ten years. As one of the keepers told me, a young elephant will venture out of the shelter for days, weeks, and then months at a time with the pack. One day, he just doesn’t return.

After playing with the elephant orphans, who were surprisingly gentle, affectionate, and gassy, N. and I decided to sponsor one of the young babies. Our donation allows us to visit the Trust any evening when the elephants are being tucked into bed – each one has his own stable, complete with a blanket, a bunk bed for the keeper, and a steady supply of milk.

I asked, half-jokingly, if I could spend the night with my new friend. The initial answer was no – but if at first you don’t succeed…

Below, some photos from our visit to the Trust, including a photo of Orwa, the one-year-old we sponsored:

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It was a day I’ll never forget.


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