I’m not sure where my love for elephants came from. It might’ve been Dumbo, it might’ve been the first picture I saw of their long luscious eyelashes, it might’ve been the self-comparison of the size of our noses…whatever it was, it continues to this day and, although I saw several herds in the Masai Mara, visiting the elephant orphanage in Nairobi was a dream come true.
The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust is a conservation charity dedicated to rescuing and nurturing young elephants and rhinos that have been separated from their mothers at a young age and still rely on their mother’s guidance and milk. There are Keepers on the orphan sites that feed the babies and help prepare them to be released back into the wild when they are ready.
Most people know that elephants and rhinos are often poached for their tusks and this is a common reason that their babies get abandoned. There are other reasons, of course: the mothers die of natural causes; babies get stuck in human wells, water holes or traps; herds are attacked by predators, etc…but the point is, these animals’ tusks provide no value to human life whatsoever so there is absolutely no point in them being on the market.
There are 29 babies at the orphanage and public viewing times are between 11am-12pm daily with a $5USD or 500KSh entrance/donation fee. While it appears to a be a theatrical event with crowds of spectators surrounding the rope-enclosed ring, it’s actually quite organic as you watch the elephants feed, splash around in the water and play with one another. Some of them will come right up to you, curiously nudging your hands or face and playfully spraying you with mud and dirt.
It’s glorious.For $50USD a year, you can foster an elephant and the funds go to the whole conservation. And, if I’m ever back in Nairobi (which I intend to be), I can drop by in the evenings and watch them prepare and put my foster elephant to bed.
I picked this little guy, Kauro, because he came right up to me, lifted the rope fence with his trunk, and started chasing after me for what I can only assume was a snuggle. And I love snuggles so he feels me, bro.