Baby elephants, it is hard not to love them!
I mean, the human toddler-like playfulness, the short legs, and that little trunk!
Akin to the most hairless of hairless apes (mmmm, hairless apes), baby elephants are completely dependent on Ma elephant. Ma makes sure that Junior is fed on that good-good nutrient-rich elephant s milk, she protects the little guy from lions, hyenas, velociraptors, and other predators, and she mentors him in the ways of being a elephant – what the good eats are, where the salt lick is, where to find water in a drought, and not to F with spitting cobras or street gangs called the Spitting Cobras.
What happens when Ma is not in the picture due to poaching, predation, premature death from a variety of factors, separation (like when a baby falls into a well and Ma eventually has to move on), or other calamities? Harshly, no Ma elephant generally equals a death sentence for her offspring. Nature, ain’t it grand?
For a lucky few orphans, human intervention can help salvage their potentially vast elephant lives. That comes in the form of the The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.
You can go to TDSWT’s website to read in detail about their purpose, but I’ll quickly sum it up for you: located right outside of Nairobi National Park, TDSWT is an orphanage for baby elephants and a sanctuary for other animals that can no longer survive in the wild.
This place literally is an orphanage for the elephants in the sense that they only stay at the facility while they are too young to survive in the wild. When they get big enough to handle the rigors of the world they are returned to the wild to rejoin a herd. Yes, these little guys go on to one day become wild elephants again. How cool is that?
Some Of The Animals Enjoying Sanctuary At The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust
I was going to Kenya to go on a safari (read about that experience here) and TDSWT was on the itinerary for Nairobi. The people that arranged my safari, the good folks at Gamewatchers Safari, mentioned that if I fostered an animal at the orphanage then I could come to the facility after admission was closed to the public to get a more personal experience with the animals. I’m all about helping wildlife and having great experiences so I was in on that fostering action!
I went to TDSWT’s fostering page, scanned through all of the animals that were available for sponsorship, picked out a little guy that I wanted to help, and then I made a $50 donation. I picked a tender little guy named Rapa (you can read more about his struggles by clicking on his name).
Apparently, Rapa was separated from his elephant family when he fell down a well in a farming community. By morning the elephant family had moved on and the little fella was still in the well. Folks from TDSWT mobilized to the farming area, extracted Rapa from the well, and brought him to the orphanage. How could you not sponsor a sob-story like sweet baby Rapa?
Okay, so I was now a foster parent to a beautiful baby elephant boy. All I had to do was meet him. Would he like me? Would he want to go to baseball games with me? Would he want me to send him to robot-camp? I didn’t know, but I had to find out! Time to board a plane, fly to Nairobi, Kenya, and head out to the orphanage.
You can read all about my visit with my sweet thieving hood-rat of a son, Rapa, and the other actually well behaved orphans by clicking on Part 2.
Here is a sneak peak and I will tell you that this is NOT my evasive thieving son: