Largest of all land mammals, Elephants are considered to be one of the most intelligent and compassionate creatures. Led by a Matriarch, they are organized into complex societies of females and calves and have been known to mourn their dead, displaying unique emotional intelligence. And of course, they are absolutely adorable, making them one of our favourite animals.
Unfortunately, these beautiful animals are still the victims of poaching, human conflict and habitat loss which continue to threaten their existence. However, through conservation efforts such as the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust’s (DSWT) orphan rescue and rehabilitation programme, orphaned elephants are being given a second chance at survival. The programme was established to rear these orphans in a way that they can eventually be released into the wild and integrate with other elephants. Each baby is assigned a keeper who cares for it full-time. From regular bottle feeds, mud baths to even sleeping next to them in their stockades, the dedication to their baby elephants is remarkable.
This is Part 4 of our 4 part series on our African Adventure, where we focus on our trip to the DSWT:
We had several hours between our incoming safari flight into Nairobi (which landed around noon) and our onward journey to London which was due to depart later that night. This presented the perfect opportunity to visit DSWT and get up close and personal with these gentle giants.
There are 3 options for visiting the orphanage:
- 11 – 12PM – General Public – min US$7 donation. Here, visitors stand in a circle and get to watch the babies being fed or frolicking in the mud. With no limit on the number of visitors and a nominal entrance fee, this is the busiest time to visit.
- 3PM – Private Visit – costs US$500 for up to 10 people. There are usually very few spots available which get booked out months in advance. This is probably one of the most rewarding experiences as visitors are allowed to fully interact with these beautiful animals.
- 5PM – 6PM – Foster Parents visit – only offered to people who have “fostered” an orphan. It costs a minimum of US$50 for up to 2 people to foster a baby for a year and must be done online prior to visiting. Since this was our only option, we decided to foster little Ndotto and were super excited to meet him.
We arrived about 30 minutes prior to the opening time and were surprised at the number of Foster parents who had come to visit. After what felt like an aeon, the keepers eventually opened the gates at 4.50 pm to let us in. We were all given a briefing on what to expect and stood side by side in eager anticipation as the babies returned from their playtime in the forest. The head keeper announced the name of each baby as they bumbled past us in single file straight in to their stockades.
Once in their stockades, we were free to walk up and meet our foster baby. Of course, we headed straight to see Ndotto who was initially too busy eating his tasty (apparently) leaves. Initially he was indifferent and showed how much he appreciated our company with a bout of flatulence. Curiosity eventually got the better of him and he finally came to say hello.
As an added bonus, we also got to see Maxwell, a blind black rhino who was rescued a few years ago. He wasn’t particular keen to meet his admirers and let them know by showering them with lots of wee.
The time spent at the orphanage seemed to fly by before we were all ushered out. This was truly one of the most rewarding experiences we’ve had and we highly recommend a visit if you have time to spare in Nairobi.