It was a stampede. Dozens of them – a thundering herd and nothing could stop their epic charge. The ground shook as they rushed and loudly trumpeted. They were hungry, ravenous.
They were a herd of baby elephants rumbling toward their keepers, who held up the biggest baby bottles you’ve ever seen. Latching onto their giant milk bottles, the baby elephants downed quarts of the milky white formula. Like feeding babies everywhere, they were in heaven. It was a scene of devastating cuteness.
Welcome to another amazing afternoon at the David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage located in Nairobi National Park. When you visit Nairobi, Kenya, you now know where to make your first stop.
Crowds regularly line up to enjoy this feeding time phenomenon at one of Nairobi’s most popular attractions. The orphanage is the most successful elephant orphan rescue and rehabilitation program in the world.
These small creatures were separated from their herd because of drought, accident or because their mother, and perhaps their family, were killed – poached for their ivory.
When the orphaned infants arrive at the nursery, they are not only physically malnourished but in a state of grieving for their lost mothers. This period of mourning can last months, and their keepers maintain physical and emotional contact with the babies, giving them as much affection as their elephant family did. This is vital for the new orphan’s survival, for if it doesn’t feel loved it will perish.
Fortunately, the orphanage has enjoyed an outstanding success rate, hand raising over 200 infant elephants. Over time it has reintroduced over 100 of the orphans back into the wilds of Tsavo National Park. The center also takes in orphaned baby rhinos as well, nursing them back to health.
After feeding comes bathing, and as with babies everywhere, bath time is a not to be missed ritual. But here, instead of washing and getting squeaky clean, baby elephants prefer mud and lots of it. They jump into the mud pools and slither about, rolling onto their backs as their keepers throw yet more dirt to cover them.
The mud acts as a sunscreen for their young hides, preventing sunburn. At this age, the infants are constantly coddled – if the temperature drops, they are blanketed. When the sun burns hot their keepers stand ready to shade them with umbrellas.
To survive out on the African plain an elephant must feed on its mother’s milk for the first two years of life. But how do you feed a baby who’s been orphaned? And what exactly do you feed it? The answer: elephant formula. The best in the world was developed right here. It is just one of many accomplishments from the woman who started this Elephant Orphans Project, Dr. Dame Daphne Sheldrick.
Born in Kenya, Daphne Sheldrick had spent her life working with her husband David raising and caring for many wild species. After David died in 1977, Daphne created the David Sheldrick Trust for orphaned elephants. Here they are raised and healed, not just physically but emotionally as well.
Daphne Sheldrick has said that if you really get to know elephants you can see all their emotions – not just when an elephant is upset but also when they are having fun. The woman who started this refuge decades ago says you can actually see when a baby elephant smiles.
Location: Located in Nairobi National Park, about a 45-minute drive from the center of Nairobi.
Climate: Nairobi is warm with a significant amount of rainfall throughout the year. The temperature here averages 20oC/68oF.
Operating Hours: The orphanage is open to the public for one hour a day, from 11:00hrs. to 12:00hrs. to watch the feeding and bathing.
Getting there: You can book a tour with Natural World Kenya Safaris in Nairobi.
By air: Jomo Kenyatta International Airport is the main aviation hub serving the capital of Nairobi.
Adopt an Elephant – besides being the most unique elephant sanctuary in the world, you can also ‘adopt’ one of the baby elephants here. The cost is $50 per year and includes a certificate with a photo and information about your adopted orphan. There are monthly updates about your elephant, and a big plus, you’ll have an opportunity to enjoy a second visit to the orphanage later in the afternoon.
Maxwell the Rhino – As noted, the orphanage also cares for orphaned rhinos. Maxwell is a blind rhino you can visit in his special protective stockade. He is located at the Kenya Wildlife Service workshop, about 1km (.6mi) from the orphanage.
This world-famous refuge for abused and sickly orphans of the wild is a testament to our kindest and most noble instincts. The sight of dozens of baby animals being nursed back to health and having fun with their fellow orphans is enough to bring a smile to man and elephant alike.
Let Natural World Kenya Safaris show you this very special place of care and compassion, so close to your hotel, in the capital of Nairobi. We have safaris departing from the capital to this and other special Kenya Parks and attractions for your Africa holiday.
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