On my recent Overland trip I was fortunate enough to visit the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust – a sanctuary for young elephants and rhinos.
The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust is a small charity established in 1977 in the memory of a famous Naturalist, David Leslie William Sheldrick MBE, founder Warden of Tsavo East National Park.
Located on the outskirts of Nairobi city centre and bordering the Nairobi National Park, it is home to orphaned elephants and rhinos.
Most animals that end up at the orphanage have a painful past. Their stories are all different but they still share one thing in common: their parents were either gunned down by poachers, they were found abandoned or rescued from wells, or saved from the jaws of wild animals (lions, hyenas, etc.).
Today, they are being looked after at the shelter until they reach the age of 10 when they’ll be big enough to be reintroduced back into the wild.
The Essential Role of the Keepers
Elephants are highly sociable animals that become very vulnerable once they are forcingly removed from their own family structure. This is when the role of the local keepers becomes primordial, as they accompany the pachyderms during the first two years of their existence.
During that time the elephants slowly but surely re-learn how to live, and the keepers form an intimate relationship with them on a 24-hour/day, 7-days/week basis. Typically, only 1-2 keepers look after each baby elephant, and they take turns to make sure the animal has company throughout the day.
The keepers are also responsible to feed the baby with milk every three hours. Funnily enough, the younger ones get fed through a blanket, which acts as the fictive “belly” of the mother elephant.
My Encounter with the Animals
The David Sheldrick Trust opens its doors at 11 AM, and this corresponds to feeding time for the ellies. We were lucky enough to experience this and I was able to capture the moment on camera. Enjoy! 😉
NB: Watch the footage until the very end…hilarious stuff! 🙂