The Sheldrick Wildlife Trust is an amazing organization. An integral part of their operation is the Orphan’s Project, where they rescue and raise orphaned elephants. The Nairobi Nursery is the starting point for most of these orphans who require considerable care for years before they can even begin to reintroduce them into the wild.
Everyday morning at 11 the first half of the babies come running back in from the forest, keepers in tow, for their “milk” (a special formula developed through trial and error) and a mud bath.
On my first morning in Nairobi, I just had to go for a visit. The 11am feeding is open to the general public and is very popular. While this makes it crowded, it also generates much needed cash for the trust.
Right now there are 15 orphans at the nursery; their stories are all different. They are kept in Nairobi until they’re ready to move on to one of the re-integration units. Baby elephants require milk until 5 years or so. 2 bottles at a time, 3 times a day – that’s a lot of milk!
Some of them even feed themselves!
And here are a bunch of photos of adorable baby elephants…
Mud & dust are very important to elephants. In addition to being just plain fun, the mud helps them cool off (they can’t sweat) while both the dust and the mud act as a sunscreen and help with parasites.
Elephants have more muscles in their trunks than we have in our entire bodies and that takes some time to master!
While the 11 am visit is open to the public, the 5 pm visit is open only to fosters – people who’ve fostered one or more of the orphaned elephants. So, on my second day I went to the 5 pm visit to see my 2 foster babies, Luggard & Sattao, as well as the little one that I fostered for my mom, Ziwadi.
The 5 pm visit is much different, less people and much more up close and personal. The babies come back from the Park and go to their stalls for the night, where they get milk (again) and some nice fresh branches to browse on. Then you’re allowed to wander around and visit them in their stalls. It was awesome!
First up was Sattao…
Sattao is almost 3 years old. He was found when he was not quite 6 months old – wandering alone and hungry, with bites from a small predator (they think it was a jackal) on his legs. They don’t know why he was alone, but they suspect that his mother was a victim of poaching. (Here is the link if you want to read Sattao’s story)
Next up was little Ziwadi (which means “a gift” in Swahili) who was rescued when she was a year old. This sweet little elephant has had a hard road since her rescue, but thankfully she’s doing much better. (Here is the link to Ziwadi’s story)
Baby elephants are prone to getting pneumonia so the keepers cover the little ones with a blanket at night to keep them warm.
And lastly was Luggard, the oldest of the orphans at the nursery. He was found when he was just 5 months old with 2 bullet wounds; one of which had shattered his right back leg. Although he was still with his herd, he was struggling to keep up. The team made the decision to rescue him, feeling that he would surely die without help. (Click here to read more of Luggard’s story)
You’ll see that although he’s healthy and happy, his back leg is deformed and his spine is starting to twist as he grows. He’ll still have a good life and will never be reintegrated into the wild, instead he’ll be sent to the Umani Springs Reintegration Unit, which cares for the vulnerable orphans.
My final “outing” was The Giraffe Centre.
The Giraffe Centre is an education centre, teaching Kenyan children about conservation and the wildlife of their beautiful country. It’s also a breeding centre for the endangered Rothschild Giraffe.
They have a built up platform where you can feed the giraffes the pellets that they give you and look them in the eye. This is Daisy, she was born at the centre and is one of the breeding females. Daisy likes to head butt, so you need to stand in front of her. And her very slimy tongue really is blue!
The calves are eventually (at 2 to 3 years) released to different parks around Kenya. To date the centre has released over 40 calves – helping to restore the populations of this critically endangered sub-species.
The Rothschild giraffe can be recognized by their white “socks” (the white on the bottom of their legs)
That concludes my time in Nairobi. Coming up – the main event – the Masai Mara!