A Masi warrior greets me as I get out of my hired car or the day. I am at the outer edge of Nairobi National Park in Nairobi, Kenya. I am here to visit the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. David Sheldrick is a world famous orphanage. It isn’t a typical orphanage. It’s residents are significantly larger than humans. Sheldrick is a wildlife orphanage that specialize in rescuing and raising orphans African wildlife. Most of the residents are victims of human/wildlife conflicts from around Kenya.
David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust does more than just house orphan African Wildlife, it works to raise and then reintroduces the orphans back into the wild. It maintains two facilities: the orphanage in Nairobi and a reintroduction facility in Tsavo National Park. The trust mainly focuses on rescuing elephants and rhinos, but if found they will take in other orphan animals. Nairobi is home to the young elephants and rhinos from the moment they are rescued to about 5 years old. After 5 years old, the adolescent elephants are taken to Tsavo and start a long process to reintroduce them into the wild.
I was about 30 mins early for the daily opening of the Trust to the public. The orphans spend most of the day exploring Nairobi National Park. They return to the Trust center at 11 am for a public feeding and the stable to spend the night. From the Masi warrior, I found out that the orphanage is currently home to 30 young elephants and two ostriches. The crowd has doubled in size in the 30 mins of waiting. About 60 people are awaiting entrance to the orphanage. It cost either $7.00 USD or 500 Kenya shillings to enter.
Finally, 11:00 am arrives and the orphanage opens. We are lead past a few of the keepers homes, and animal stables to a small roped off area. This area is where the mid-morning orphan feeding occurs. It has a small watering hole and sits just on the edge of the national park. The keepers have two wheel barrels full of milk bottles ready for the elephants to arrive.
We stand on the edge of the rope and wait for the elephants to arrive. An intake of breath can be heard as the first elephant appears from the bush. He is followed by 14 other elephants and two ostriches.
The first elephants runs to a keeper and immediately starts woofing down his bottle. His friend join him as he finishes his first bottle. He gets a second bottle. The other elephants surrounds keepers, each one is looking for their two bottle.
As each elephant finishes his bottles, and is unsuccessful at getting a third bottle. Some get board and play in the dust or with another elephant. The two ostriches wander around the area munching on some branches.
I was standing by one of the water barrels so as a few of the elephants finished they walked over for a drink. I use the term drink loosely. A few of the elephants spent more time splashing around in the water than actually drinking it.
After the feeding, one of the keepers introduced all of the elephants by age and their story of their rescue and reason for being orphaned. Almost all their stories involved their mother being killed or falling down a well and being abandon. These elephants were between a few weeks to 1.5 years old. Having met all of these young elephants, it was time for them to head back into the bush. The ostriches had been found abandoned as young chick while the Trust was rescuing an elephant.
Once these elephants had disappeared from view, the second group of orphans were lead out. These 15 elephants were the older elephants at the orphanage. Like the babies, they couldn’t wait to arrive and get their bottles.
These guys and gals were more interactive and their individual characteristics stood out. A couple of these elephants were rather sneak about trying to get an extra bottle from their keepers. The keepers were on to them, but it was funny to watch. The minute the keeper got distracted, an elephant would try and sneak another bottle.
Some of the elephants decided to play in the watering hole and spray some of the tourists standing near the watering hole with muddy water.
One of the keepers led an elephant over to where I was standing and I got to pet an African Elephant. His skin is rather tough with some small fine hairs along it.
These elephants were introduced and their stories were similar to the younger one but two of them. Their mothers had died of old age.
The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust – Elephant Orphanage is a critical component to elephant and rhino conservation. They didn’t have any orphan rhinos. I was both disappointed and thankful. I would have loved to see a baby rhino but am glad none had been found orphaned recently. They have successful reintroduced many elephants to the wild and provide anti-hunting patrols in national parks. They also focus on education in hope of preventing human/wildlife conflicts. The visitor entrance fees and donations are a critical component of their efforts. After Christmas, I plan on becoming a foster parent to one of the orphan elephants. I am going to foster a year and a half old male from Rumuruti Forest named Simotua.
Simotua was orphaned in sometime in June. He arrived at the orphanage in June 23, 2015. He had been reported abandoned and injured a few days earlier. He was found in a weak condition and had a snare wound on his leg as well as a spear wound on his head. He was patched up and joined the orphan heard out in the park on July 7, 2015. Since then he has almost made a full recovery except for his scares.
I got to visit with one of my favorite animals at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust – Elephant Orphanage. What is your favorite African Animal?