Saturday, August 16, 2014

Nairobi Elephant Orphanage

When we knew we had a day in Nairobi we decided a must see was the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Elephant Orphanage.  We had read about it in the guide book and several friends had been there.  It's named after the first game keeper of the Nairobi Game Park.  His wife has spent the time since his death learning how to care for orphan elephants.  It takes years of commitment and dedication.  When an elephant under two years (the age to which elephants still need to be nursing) is found in any of the Kenyan game parks abandon or orphaned they will go and get it.  They bring it to the Nairobi game park and here they make it the responsibility of a keeper.  The elephant will be in their care now all day and all night.  When you walk past the baby barns you see a loft in each stall with a mattress and bedding because the keeper will even sleeps in the barn with their baby.  After 3-5 years when the elephant is ready they will take the elephant to one of the game parks in Kenyan and there they will stay with them for another 3-5 years until they have been fully integrated into a new herd.  It is all determined by the elephant.  They stay at the orphanage until they are ready, they stay with their keeper until they are ready to join the herd and be free.  Once daily from 11-noon, they allow the public into the orphanage.  It cost 500 shillings a person (Cheetah was free), or 2500 shillings ( $30) for our family.  Even though the gates don't open until 11 I highly suggest getting there an hour early.  People start lining up at the gates around then and it is exceptionally popular.  We waited not so patiently for an hour but it was worth it because when they finally let us in (and let me tell you people push and cut to try and get to the front) we made it to be able to stand by the rope.  Every person who comes in is trying to push toward the rope because the rope is the only thing separating you from the baby elephants.  Then the tiniest little ones come out first.  They are covered with little Masai blankets.  Kenyans are even worried about baby elephants being too cold and getting pneumonia.  They are so adorable.  They get their bottles and walk by so if you are close to the ropes you can pet them.  The keepers tell you their names and each of their stories, where they were found and what had happened to their mothers.  Then you watch them play for a bit and then they send them back and the bigger elephants come out.  They too get bottles, play around, walk by the rope so you can touch them and you hear their stories.  It is an amazing experience that we all really enjoyed.  We enjoyed it so much that we even donated some extra money to help pay for elephant care!
Without the care and milk provided by the keepers these little babies would starve to death.  The herd will protect them from predators but elephants live solely on mama's milk for the first two years of their lives, without it they will die.  

Here comes the babies!

Loving the milk!

Just hanging out in front of elephants...any normal day.

Here come the big guys.  They are super excited to see their bottles and some of them can actually hold them up themselves they have also moved to eating leaved and vegetation as well.  The weaning days are coming.  

Enjoying a little salad with his milk.

Touching a baby elephant.  You don't get to do this everyday.  Their skin is so rough and they have super coarse hair on their bodies.  They also have seriously some of the longest eyelashes I've ever seen.

1 comment:

  1. Neat experience! So what kind of things did they tell you happened to their mothers?

    Andrew brought home one of those Masai blankets. They look great on the elephants!



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