Jumbo Jet SetOctober 3, 2011
The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust is situated on the outskirts of Nairobi, on the edge of the capital’s National Park. In September, I went to see the work it does with orphaned baby elephants, who were recently the focus of BBC One’s ‘Nature’s Miracle Babies’ and will soon be showcased in a new 3D film – narrated by Morgan Freeman – called ‘Born to be Free’.
David Sheldrick himself was a renowned naturalist and the founder warden of Tsavo East National Park. The Trust was established in 1977, following his death, and strives to honour his legacy in the field of conservation, most notably with elephants and rhinos. It also maintains the firm belief that educating both visitors and Kenyans alike on the importance of conservation is at the heart of preserving the country’s natural heritage.
All of the elephants at the trust were found abandoned in the bush, often without their mothers – many of whom have been killed by ivory poachers or local farmers. So today, the orphanage is staffed by a dozen keepers, all of whom keep a close watch on their charges, feeding them specially formulated milk (though many have been rather adept at feeding themselves!), and regularly leading them down to the waterhole. They even sleep with them in their stables.
Many of the elephants brought to the Trust will stay at the orphanage until they are two or three years old before they are reintroduced to the wild. In the meantime, visits to see the elephants are included in some of our itineraries – though you would be advised to leave your best safari linens at home – the playful jumbos are always on the look-out for an unsuspecting tourist on which to spray water from their trunks!
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