Thursday, October 1, 2015

Nairobi Elephant Orphanage - David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

All I can say is that baby elephants are amazing. The orphanage outside of Nairobi was close enough to our safari camp that we could replace one of our game drives with a visit there. There were two groups of orphans, the under two years old group and the two and older. But they were all playful like puppies.

It was quite warm the day we went, and elephants have pretty sensitive skin, though it looks as tough as a rhinoceros. So they were all rolling in the mud to no end. There was plenty of it, too, because they were also splashing water out of their troughs. On each other, or just wildly spraying it with their trunks.

As it happened, Adrienne and the kids were in the wrong place at the wrong time and got thoroughly soaked with the evil smelling mixture. And that stuff never came out, either. Poor Donovan lost his precious Minion hoodie to it and Peri had to dump one of her cutest tops. 

But we didn't regret the trip, in fact we adopted two of the elephants. We felt so sorry for them. It sounded like half of their parents were killed by poachers for their tusks, and the other half had fallen down water holes. It's so wonderful that this place sends people out to look for baby elephants in distress, then raises them to re-enter the wild.

They are very meticulous about not doing anything to get in the way of the sending the elephants back out where they belong. The animals are only exposed to visitors for one hour at a time, twice a day. And though they each have a personal attendant 24/7, these are rotated every 24 hours, in order to prevent attachments from forming on either side.

Because we adopted the elephants before we left that morning, we got to return for a more private visit, later in the afternoon. Each child got to see the exact elephant they had adopted, visit its stall, and even pet its trunk.

The younger groups were in full on stables, each with its own blankie. But the older ones were in outdoor stalls that were partially covered to get out of the sun or rain. They were the most entertaining. 

There were three in a row where the leftmost one was stealing branches of food from the middle guy, who stealing food from the one on the right...who was yelling at everyone because the bucket outside his gate no longer had treats in it.

There was a very sad, old and injured rhino in a big pen of its own. He, too, allowed the kids to pet him. 

There was also a quite frisky young warthog just roaming around freely, that we all liked.

I think, out of all the animals, I liked that warthog best. He seemed exactly like the kind of animal a cartoon movie should be about.

In any case, this place made a big impression on all of us, in so many ways. The children each got wonderful folders full of things related to their adopted elephants. I took away paperwork to find their website and keep the adoptions going.

Ivory poaching is a horrible, horrible cruel crime. Even Obama did his part to try and stop it recently. As the handlers who spoke to the crowds while the babies were feeding told us, if we buy ivory, we are every bit as guilty of the suffering as the poachers. Well, it's been decades now that ivory has been banned here, so that's not a problem. 

But it's still a huge problem over there. One elephant is killed every 15 minutes for its ivory. If this current rate continues, there will be a dearth of wild elephants in Africa just ten years from now. 

So if anyone has a few extra dollars to spare, I would ask that you take a look at this place. It really is a wonderful refuge, and extremely well run. You can visit their website HERE.

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