My favourite animal of all time is easily an elephant. Not only are they magnificent to look, I somehow feel an emotional connection with them. I think one reason why elephants are so lovable is that they are also some of the most empathetic creatures on the planet. They are a closely knit society, with strong relationships, they cuddle, caress each other and intertwine their trunks. When an elephant dies, another will cry out in sadness, mourning and even shedding tears which is why I really admired the work of The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT) in Nairobi.
At the heart of the trust is the Orphan’s Project an activity dedicated to the rescue of baby elephants and rhinos and a commitment to rehabilitate them into the wild. The centre is about a twenty minute drive away from Giraffe Manor but only open to the general public between 11am – 12pm so don’t miss the window of opportunity.
When you arrive you head down to the enclosure in order to watch the baby elephants on parade, playing with each other and being fed their milk. The milk formula actually took three decades to perfect but rearing the elephants is dependant on this and the dedicated team of carers.
It’s pretty easy to get your elephant selfie or an ‘elfie’…
And if they come close enough you’re permitted to stroke them.
We saw plenty of elephants in the wild on safari but this was a really unique opportunity to get up close and actually touch them.
The guide explained that DSWT was born from the Sheldricks’ passion for Kenya and its animals. It was Dame Daphne Sheldrick who founded the centre in 1977 and named it in memory of her late husband; David Sheldrick was a naturalist and a founding Warden of Tsavo National Park.
Most of the elephants have been orphaned due to poaching and loss of habitat from human involvement but the DSWT has a dedicated anti-poaching project. The Trust deploys eight full-time anti-poaching units, each month finding and arresting poachers and wildlife offenders.
It takes a long time and skill to rehabilitate an elephant and the trust has hand-raised over 150 elephants and reintegrated them back into their natural habitat. There are currently 28 elephants residing at the centre, ranging in ages, and they have each been named after the place where they were found.
The Trust receives assistance from other organisations but mostly relies on people ‘fostering’ a baby elephant for $50 a year. Fostering an elephant means that you receive monthly updates about your elephant and any news from the trust. You can visit your elephant at any time and even come outside usual visiting hours to say good night. They only take cash at the centre, but I adopted my calf online and I can’t wait to hear all the monthly updates about my very own baby elephant!
Do you love elephants? Would you adopt an elephant?
The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust