Through the tightly knit branches of trees growing on the northern rim of Nairobi National Park in Kenya an occasional glimpse of red-brown shapes can be seen moving through the hanging branches. Breaking from cover and running down the hillside the young elephants make their way with eagerness to the waiting keepers.
With their green dust coats and khaki hats the dedicated keepers of the elephant orphanage are the final hope for young elephants abandoned in Africa. They provide care 24-hours a day, 7-days a week for the young elephants. Each morning at six the elephants are taken for a walk within the park. Later that morning at eleven the elephants are taken to meet paying members of the public and local schoolchildren who visit the orphanage to see the work being done there and to see the ongoing work of the conservationists.
Visitors watch, take pictures and have the opportunity to stroke the hard rough skins of these amazing animals as the young elephants feed with gusto on the formula provided to them in large plastic bottles. Some are happy to allow the keepers to hold the bottle while the more confident simply grab the bottle and feed themselves. Swigging from the bottles with greedy abandon. Once the food is gone it’s time for the mud hole. The younger ones among them roll around in the pool enjoying the cool muddy relief from the morning sun whilst the older ones look on with apparent bemusement at the frivolity. They all seem to be having a great time.
After an hour or so they are taken to their feeding and playing pens until 5pm when they are taken to their beds inside a stockade where they sleep until the following morning. The keepers sleeping beside them to provide reassurance and comfort.
Brought from all over the the country after losing their parents and families to drought, or by getting stuck in mud pools, drying river beds or falling into man-made wells or as a result of poaching the orphan elephant rescue and rehabilitation program is the most successful in the world and one of the most pioneering conservation organisations for wildlife and habitat protection in East Africa.
Founded in 1977 by Dr Dame Daphne Sheldrick in honour of her late husband, the renowned naturalist Davie Sheldrick MBE, this world leading organisation is now leading the way towards the saving of these complex and highly cohesive animals. Animals that are the largest land animal on earth and are among the most intelligent.
Once healed and stabilised and no longer milk dependent they are moved to a holding centre over one hundred miles to the Tsavo National Park. Once there, and at their own pace, which could take between eight to ten years, they gradually make the transition back into the wild.
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