While in Nairobi, Kenya, we also paid a visit to Daphne Sheldrick’s Elephant Orphanage, part of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. This is such an incredible place! The orphanage has a nursery and rehab center for infant elephants that have lost their families, often due to poaching. Daphne Sheldrick was the first person to successfully raise an orphan infant elephant, discovering a formula that has now been used widely (being fed to baby elephant Naipoki in the picture above). It took them a long time to develop the right formula that allowed these baby elephants to thrive and grow – in the end, it ended up being very similar to human baby formula. These infants are eventually released into the wild at Tsavo East National Park and end up in the care of other orphans who have been successfully reintroduced to the wild. These baby elephants have such amazing personalities and become so attached to their keepers (reference the trunk snuggles in the picture above). We of course could not leave without adopting one (it costs about $55) and loved receiving regular updates on how our baby elephant was getting along.
This one baby was very playful and kept sticking her trunk into the water trough to blow bubbles. 🙂
In addition to baby elephants, they will also take in other orphaned animals in need. There was a nearly blind rhino living there when we visited, and right now they have an insanely adorable baby hippo living at the orphanage.
The keepers are really wonderful and provide such love and support in the form of a “human family” to these traumatized baby animals. Elephants are known for forming very strong emotional attachments – often times when these baby elephants are found they are completely distraught, laying on or near their dead mother. In the wild, elephants are known to return to the site where a loved one had died year after year, spending some time there in apparent mourning before moving on. The babies are never left alone during the first few months at the orphanage, with a keeper even sleeping in their stalls with them. If you are interested in learning more, this is a wonderful post describing the Elephant Orphans’ Project.