This photoset and post is from my friend Kate, who is currently traveling through parts of Africa. This post struck me as simultaneously sad and beautiful.
One of my highlights last week was my trip to the Elephant orphanage in the Nairobi National Park. The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust http://www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org/ is a center where they take care of orphaned elephants. Many have been orphaned due to the illegal tusking industry that has killed their mothers. The center is an important place because baby elephants require a very specific kind of care from their mothers that is extremely hard to emulate. For example, they consume only their mother’s milk for the first 2 years of life. The milk content also changes over time to adapt to the baby’s different growing needs. So to rear baby elephants, the center has to make sure there is someone available to feed them milk every three hours of their first two years of life.
However, the problem is that elephants are emotional and get attached, even to humans. If the baby gets too attached to a human, then it will not be able to readjust to the wild. So, the elephant orphanage has a system in which there are 24/7 caretakers that rotate so that someone is around the elephants at all times, but it is always a different person. This means that even at night, a caretaker sleeps in the elephant’s stall so that he can feed the baby every three hours. In addition, the baby elephants are only open to public viewing for one hour each day, 11am-12pm, so that they do not get too accustomed to crowds of humans.
The one hour I got to spend watching them was utterly entertaining and adorable. Here is a taste of what it was like.