This past Saturday held the event I had been looking forward to most since the planning of this trip began…meeting baby elephants!
The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust was founded in 1977 and is now one of the most successful orphan-elephant rescue and rehab programs in the world. They take in both elephants and rhinos who’s mothers have fallen victim to poaching for ivory/horn, deforestation/loss of habitat due to humans, and injuries such as falling down a well and wounds from human weapons.
Visiting hours at the Trust are strictly 11-12, to limit the animal’s exposure to human contact so they can be released back into the wild, generally at the age of three years old.
The first to be brought into the roped off enclosure were the youngest, aging from 2-3 months. At such a young age they do not know how to properly use their trunks yet, so the Rangers hold the bottle while they feed. Also seen in the picture above, the towel hanging up is like a mother figure to them, we were informed, so they babies bolted over to it once through with feeding. An elephants mother is the most important thing in its life, seeing as it depends her milk for the first two years of her life.
After the youngest ate, another group of elephants stampeded towards the wheelbarrow of milk bottles, knowing it was meal time. Once all three groups were brought in and fed, a Ranger spoke about the dangers the animals encounter in the wild and how each one came to being in the orphanage. I found it amazing how they remembered all 31 elephants names, and the dedication they have to help these calves recoup. The youngest even have a bunk for a Ranger to sleep on in their stable, although they rotate who the Ranger is to keep them from getting attached.
The DSWT has a sponsor/foster program where you can “adopt” an elephant for $50 a year, which goes toward the elephant size price it takes to cover formula, care, and medical needs per animal. You receive a adoption certificate, picture and profile about the elephant you have adopted as well as monthly updates. If this is something you are interested in supporting you can find more information on it here. If it’s not something you can afford or would like to commit to, then the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and I encourage you to resist buying ivory products. If you cut off the demand, it suffocates the poachers need to supply.
(hey mom, remember when I asked you what you wanted as a gift and you gave me a classic “I don’t know”? Well we’re adopting an elephant…surprise!)
They say an elephant never forgets, and I will never forget this experience.