Oh No! It’s the Dawn Patrol!
It’s not exactly the elephants from the Disney cartoon movie “The Jungle Book”, but somehow that’s what popped into my mind when we were at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trusts’ (DSWT) Orphans’ Project just inside the Nairobi National Park on Sunday morning. This place is where baby elephants, who have lost their mother to poachers or somehow got separated from the rest of their group, are brought to. Here these baby elephants are taken care of for around 3 years before the process of re-introducing them to the wild is started. When they are re-introduced, these elephants are actually adopted by an elephant group which usually has a member that was also an orphan from the DSWT at one time. Remember, an elephant never forgets. The project has been around since 1977, and has also rescued numbers of infant black and white rhinos who have lost their mothers due to poaching.
Every day from 11:00 AM to 12:00 Noon (yes it’s just for 1 hour) people are admitted for 500 Kenya Shilling (about $5 US) to the DSWT for the feeding of the orphaned elephants. When we arrived at the entrance, my roommate and I saw the largest gathering of Mzungus since we’ve been here in Kenya. Just listening to them talking, we could tell that they were here on vacation. They were from the UK, Canada, US, China, Netherlands, Germany, and other countries. Once inside, we walked down a path to the central area where the orphaned elephants are fed with a special formula that closely resembles what they would receive if they were nursing from their mother.
Once everyone was inside, the first baby elephant to be brought out was named Ajabu (a Swahili term meaning mystery). She was found alone in April of this year, and was only 1 day old. After she was fed and had her picture taken quite a few times, I looked to my left and saw about 8 more baby elephants, all under the age of 2, coming down the path. Now there were 9 baby elephants being fed and having their pictures taken by everyone there. One of the keepers then told everyone there that morning a story about each elephant, their name, how old they were, and how these elephants came to the DSWT.
After about 30 minutes, it was time for the babies to leave and make room for the next group of elephants that were between 2 and 3 years old. So off went the 8 baby elephants with little Ajabu bringing up the rear. That is when I thought of the “Jungle Book”, but there was no Mowgli, the man cub, at the end of the line.
After the baby elephants left, there were 8 more elephants between the ages of 2 and 3 who came into the feeding area. At around 2 years old is when an elephant starts to grow their tusks, but they are still very dependent on their mother. Again one of the keepers told everyone a story about each elephant and how they came to the DSWT center. At the end of the feedings, we were told that if anyone wanted to, that they could sponsor one of the elephants for $50 a year which would go towards the care of all of the elephants. It sounded like it might be a good idea, but the CFO of the family, my wife, is not here with me in Kenya for the PULSE assignment. It can always be done at a later date via the DSWT website.
If you want to know more about the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trusts’ Orphans’ Project and the elephants, you can go to their website at www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org . Until next time, Kwa heri!