Visit This Elephant Nursery!

In Nairobi National Park, there is a sanctuary where you can watch baby elephants frolic in the mud. The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust is a bittersweet place; right now, you can see thirteen young African elephants play and drink milk, take mud baths and explore their world. However, each and every one of these elephants was born in the wild, and was orphaned in some way by their interactions with human beings.

In 1979, there were an estimated 1.3 million wild African elephants on the continent. Only about half a million remain today. Shrinking habitats, hunting for meat or ivory, or confrontations with people have driven the elephant population down severely, and that often means orphaned babies with nowhere to go. Thats where the Trust comes in. It began in 1977 as a was for Dr. Dame Daphne Sheldrick to honor her late husband, and has become world famous for it’s advances in raising elephants in captivity. The first breakthrough came when Sheldrick was the first to find a formula that elephants could subsist on, which was a delicate combo of human baby formula and coconut. This is essential to healthy elephant rearing, as these gentle giants nurse for up to four years.

The center also needed to meet the emotional needs of their young charges. Elephants are highly intelligent, social, and emotional creatures, and babies need to be interacted with almost constantly. Their caregivers at the center go everywhere with them, and even sometimes sleep in their stalls. It’s tough for them to say goodbye to each other when the elephants are fully weaned and make the transition Tsavo National Park, where they learn to be social with wild elephants. They are then released into the wild, where their success rate has been very encouraging. People cause the harm these elephants experience early in life, but we’re also their only salvation, and it’s time we do right by them.