The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

Before the ESTC 2013 started, participants who had arrived in Nairobi early had the chance to explore the city and its surroundings. On my second day in the Kenyan capital, I decided to head to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust to pay a visit to the elephant orphans. The Trust was set up in 1977 in memory of the famous naturalist David Sheldrick and has nurtured and released 150 orphaned baby elephants back into the wild since that time, making it the most successful rescue and rehabilitation centre in the world.

Visitors are only allowed to enter the orphanage for one hour a day, which keeps their interaction with humans to a minimum. We arrived at the site in good time and had to wait for quite a while before we saw anything that looked remotely elephant-esque. Our first glimpse of Kenyan wildlife was actually a warthog, affectionately referred to as a “pumba” by many Kenyans, after the Lion King character (which means foolish or stupid in Swahili!).

Warthog, Kenya, David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

Given the limited opening hours, the orphanage was understandably packed full of visitors, who hustled and bustled for a front row photo spot:

Elephants, Orphans Kenya, David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

I (rather cunningly, I thought) took up a spot on a tree behind everyone so that I had a clear view. But after about 15 minutes I started to get a bit restless. Where were the elephants? Was something wrong? We watched and wondered as the guards seem to make the necessary arrangements…

Elephant Orphans, Kenya, David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

I think they just decided to take their time before trotting down to the feeding area (cue the awws and ahhs from the crowd):

Elephant Orphans, Kenya, David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

The last time I had seen an elephant was about 25 years earlier, in a circus (not something I’m proud of) so it was really amazing to see so many at one time. They moved surprisingly fast – I guess they must have been hungry!

Elephant Orphans, Kenya, David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

Elephant Orphans, Kenya, David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

The keepers had to fight back the little ones as they pushed and shoved their way past each other to get an ‘elephant-sized’ bottle of milk, which is actually made from a human breast milk formula.

Elephant Orphans, Kenya, David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

The contents were gone in a matter of seconds,

Elephant Orphans, Kenya, David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

and a nearby wheelbarrow was soon full of empties:

Elephant Orphans, Kenya, David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, Milk Bottles

During and after  a really interested speech by the head keeper,

Elephant Orphans, Kenya, David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, Presentation

visitors were allowed to touch the elephants. Their skin was surprisingly dry and cold:

Elephant Orphans, Kenya, David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, Skin

This one reminded me a little of my grandma’s elbow (I’m not looking forward to the backlash from that comment haha):

Elephant Orphans, Kenya, David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, Wrinkly Skin

Elephant Orphans, Kenya, David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

As the elephants headed back to their enclosure and we headed back to the bus I pondered whether Vicky and I would get to see any elephants in the wild, which must be a completely different experience. I really couldn’t  imagine how big an adult elephant must be if these guys were only babies! Little did I know that only a few days later they would be paying a visit to our deck in Sasaab

Elephant Orphans, Kenya, David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, Tails

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