One of our first things to do in Kenya was visit the Elephant Orphanage, or as it properly called the David Sheldrick Wildlife Fund. Both of us have always loved the Elephant Orphanage, and try to go every time we can. This visit was our third. You arrive at 11:00, when the orphans come down for feeding. You watch the feedings and watch the elephants work on their mud-coating skills. During this time keepers tell you about each orphan and about the orphanage.
Orphans arriving for feeding time.
These elephants may be orphaned by poachers, disease, or elderly mothers, or left behind after falling in a well or hole. Once found they are delivered to the elephant orphanage. Over half of the elephants may have PTSD. Some do not survive this.
The elephants are taught to forage, but still receive milk. Initially baby elephants were tried on cow’s milk, and became ill. The new and improved elephant formula is similar to baby formula.
Elephants are cared for by “keepers,” who act as a mother figure for the elephants. The elephants and keepers are rotated so the elephants do not become too attached to one person. The keepers stay with the elephants at night so the babies feel secure.
One of the younger orphans.
The orphans form “mini” herds. The oldest female acts as the matriarch. The elephants are currently in two herds, one older and one younger. The younger elephants had difficulty in the mud bath, getting in, getting out and forming the mud coat. The keepers helped them out.
There was lots of “elephant play” going on in the mud hole. Periodically they would try to sit on each other and play with a muddy soccer ball.
The youngest elephant was not yet three months old. She was found in a well. The keepers kept a close eye on her, and she kept a close eye on them. They helped her form her mud coat, and she really didn’t get into the mud hole with all of the play.
This one just can’t get out of the mud.
The keepers are shoveling dry dirt on wet elephants to form mud sunscreen.
Honestly, we could watch the elephants all day. We stayed every minute they were out. There are also rhino orphans in the rhino preserve. We’re just jealous of Tompaul’s niece and nephew, who have “adopted” an elephant and visited it during evening feeding time.