I would have to say, this trip with the elephants surpassed my expectations. I have been a big fan of The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust for as long as I can remember. After reading Dame Daphne Sheldrick’s book Life, Love and Elephants, I fell in love with her whole operation. Daphne Sheldrick started saving orphaned elephants and rhinos many years ago and discovered they need a lot of love and tenderness of a family, a community a herd. And she also discovered cow’s milk wasn’t going to work. After some time, she created her own formula.
Daphne Sheldrick left the planet this last year, but her work is carrying on in a profound way.
Cut to now, a giant system is in place for the epoch tragedy of a baby elephant losing their mother and/or their herd. In Nairobi, they have the nursery. It is equipped with men that sleep with the baby elephants in stalls. They are cuddled, loved and coddled. The men rotate around so that the orphans never get too attached to one human.
The elephants have routines which include bush walks in the smaller environment, mud baths and frolicking with each other.
The orphans stay at the nursery for a couple of years. Then they move on to one of three camps where, as teenagers, they move into more of a giant paddock where the elephants bond more with each other rather than humans. They still get milk from a bottle but they also get pellets (alfalfa). They go on much longer bush walks, there are still mud pools and baths. And lots and lots of play.
Eventually on the bush walks, they may choose to go off with the wild herd. This is the goal. And they are to do this on their own time. They may even choose to come back. Sometimes they come back just for a visit! It is really a beautiful system. And it is a system that works.
One morning as we were racing to get there for the 6:00 am feeding, we came around the corner to find that some former orphans that now live in the wild, not only came back for a visit, they brought their wild friends.
We spent days there and pictures are worth a thousand words. So, I will leave you with the pictures. I will share more over the next few weeks as I’m still processing this beautiful experience. I find that experiences like this are what I like to call: N.W. Because there are NO WORDS to describe the magnitude of the whole experience.
This last trip falls into that category.