Orphaned Elephants in Kenya
Orphaned Elephants are just about the kindest, most forgiving, and unselfish creatures in the animal kingdom. These five-toed pachyderms play, operate as a team, will most likely remember every human interaction that they have, and are incredibly fascinating animals to observe.
Sadly, every year thousands of elephants are killed and their young are left orphaned as a result of poaching. Helpless and destitute, most baby elephants will die within a few days.
The after-effects of a treacherous poaching scene can cause devastating harm to young elephants who witness their parents die. This is such a sensitive issue and the utmost care must be given to these baby elephants.
Thankfully establishments like the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust for Orphaned Elephants in Kenya, offer hope for one of Africa’s much loved Big Five animals.
The foundation is a safe haven for baby elephants. They are brought in scarred, emotional, and traumatized. After months, sometimes years of teaching and care from the thoughtful, well-trained staff most of these African elephants will eventually leave the safe house, confident and prepared to go off into the wild.
The elephant orphanage was a great initiative by Daphne Sheldrick who decided on this venture shortly after her husband David Sheldrick, a leading crusader against poaching died in 1977.
The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust has since saved the lives of more than 150 abandoned elephants. Daphne Sheldrick was in 1989 named a Dame by Queen Elizabeth ll.
Sheldrick’s orphanage in Nairobi has everything that will make a baby elephant feel right at home. The young have their own private rooms; there is a communal bath that allows for healthy interaction with other elephants, a dining area, and even a playground, and each elephant has its own keeper to care for him 24/7.
Life here seems pretty comfortable, though not everything goes according to plan – half of the elephants brought in don’t make it through to the end of the program. The extent of their physical and psychological damage is far too great.
But for the elephants that do survive, and eventually head back to the wild, this makes the job all the more worthwhile and rewarding for the headmistress and the elephant keepers.
There are roughly 14 elephants at the orphanage at any given time. Most will stay here for a number of years until they are fully ready to go off into the wild again.
The Elephant orphanage receives distress calls from all over Kenya and the rest of East Africa. Most elephants are flown to Daphne Sheldrick’s orphanage just outside of Nairobi and will then undergo the treatment he/she needs.
The orphanage may be run by Daphne and the elephant keepers, but it’s the elephants who call the shots. When a new elephant keeper is hired, he will be placed on a three-month trial period, if the elephants like him he stays, if not, he’s out!
The keepers play such a significant role in saving these elephants. They teach, comfort, and school the elephants. The elephants are trained properly and eventually leave the orphanage when they feel it is time.
“One day, an elephant will wander off into the bush and stay there. It is definitely not at the prompting of anyone in this elephant orphanage. It is whenever an elephant feels that he is ready to go back to where he belongs.”
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