Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage

Baby Giants
- 16 March 2013 -

I landed in Nairobi on the 13th March and after changing hotels twice I was settled in, 2 days of work later and the weekend had arrived, Saturday to be exact. The question was what were we going to do on this day. Zima made a wild suggestion to hire a car for the day and drive to all the places we would like see, and I agreed. Turns out the Hotel doesn't understand what car hire means, to them this means car hire + driver. However eventually their ignorance paid off, they were able to convince us at a very reasonable rate to hire a driver and a car for the day. 

For once in a while I decided I will be content with traditional tourist activities, so we planned out the day to start with the Elephant Orphanage in Nairobi, then the Giraffe Centre, then the Karen Blixen museum, and then... well we didn't plan that far ahead.

We setoff to the Elephant Orphanage and with no knowledge of what time we should go, we arrived at just the right time. The show had just started.

First thing we saw, were all the baby elephants, now these babies were really small, and there was a man standing with a microphone talking too much surrounded by a massive crowd of tourists. I was immediately irritated.... now I had to try find a spot to take photos and getting to the front would be impossible. Besides that, once I was able to find a spot I knew that I would probably want to change position to get a better angle and will probably miss the "perfect" moment in the process. Anyway, I endured... I found a spot, screwed on my 200mm zoom lens and started snapping away.

Inadvertently I was listening to the irritating presenter, and started to absorb some of the information, together with this I started to notice the beauty of these little (but big) creatures.... they are really cute. 

Turns out that each elephant has a name and a unique story behind them, from natural abandonment (not the fault of the mother, I'm sure it was out of her control) to orphans left stranded due to poaching.

I wasn't the only one with a camera though, one thing that comes with tourists is lots and lots of camera. 

The keepers made a concerted effort to lead the elephants around the enclosure so everybody can get a glimpse (or a photo) and maybe a chance to touch the babies. 

By this time I had lost Zima, I didn't expect her to follow me around "ducking and diving" between the crowd trying to get a better shot, but it was ok... I would find her later.

Apparently at this point the baby show was done, and the babies were lead back through the bushes, to their sleeping quarters.... I assume. 

We had arrived slightly late, about 15 minutes or so, so we missed the majority of the babies, but not to worry, the toddlers were on their way. They are all named, each also with their own unique story. Although they are already a couple of year old they still need to be bottle fed.

It was a sight to remember. Apparently according to our now "not so irritating" presenter they drink something like 28 litres of milk a day.... or was it 38 litres.... either way it was a lot of milk, and according to the "David Sheldrick website" his wife (Daphne Sheldrick) has spent practically her entire life perfecting the milk formulae.

All I could think about was in ideal circumstances the mother elephant needs to produce 28 litres (or 38) per day. Lucky they only have 1 kid at a time.... 

Feeding time was over and now it was time to play.

It almost looks like he is laughing!

It was time to find Zima again, so I missioned off in the general direction I left her and after 5 minutes I found her again. Zima seemed to be enjoying the babies and toddlers too. She had a strange "sad but happy" smile... I would like to think it was because I was back, but I'm sure it was for the sadness and warmth of this place.

Playtime was over and it was time for chewing sticks and socialising.

Rearing elephants from these ages takes a long time, until they are eventually ready to join the wild again. Doing this magnificent act of kindness takes a lot of dedication and costs a lot of money. So how do they do it, well.... with our help.... the David Shelrick fund is there to collect and manage the funds which is important to keep this place running. Any donations are welcome but they have also come up with an ingenious plan to keep us engaged and get our monies worth. You can adopt a elephant (or rhino) through a fostering initiative, you get personal information about the elephant you adopt, including a weekly update on their progress, including stuff like who they making friends with, together with photos.... plus a whole lot more.

So if you have a love for elephants and want to support this project, here is the website address --- The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.

The show was over but it had taken merely 45 minutes to convert me. I started off irritated by the tourists, but the kindness of this place together with the dedicated keepers .... and the excellent presenter, I left a little tear-eyed but also wholeheartedly  inspired.

I initially wanted to combine the elephants with the giraffes into one post, but once I had gone through all the photos I decided that this needs a dedicated page.

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