The crowd gathers at the barrier from around 10am. It’s a mixed bag – foreign tourists, Kenyan families bringing visiting relatives and friends, and several dozen small school children. At 11 o’clock the rope barrier is dropped and everyone enters the Elephant Orphanage. The crowd scuttles past the stables where the baby elephants sleep at night and down a narrow path to pay the entrance fee and continue down to a large clearing with another rope barrier. As the visitors find their place for the best views of the elephant orphans there is a sense of excitement and anticipation. At last everyone is in and suddenly from the bushes in the Nairobi National Park appears the first group of baby elephants. They scamper down to the clearing where massive bottles of milk wait for them. Some of the elephants can hold the bottle with their trunks and feed themselves, while the smaller ones need assistance from the keepers. They guzzle down the milk; those who are feeding themselves throw the first bottle down and nudge the keepers for a second. Cameras are snapping wildly and the school children are a bit nervous and a bit excited all at the same time.
In 1948, David Sheldrick became the founding Warden of Tsavo National Park, the largest park in Kenya, where he was forced to deal with the problem of armed poachers. After his untimely death in 1977, his wife Daphne established the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. Among other activities, the elephant orphanage is one of the projects of the Trust. It supports baby elephants that have lost their mothers due to death from injuries, natural causes or poaching, or the orphan has gotten lost in the wild. Baby elephants (like human babies) cannot survive without care and the dedicated team at the orphanage provide both the physical and emotional care required. When the elephants come of age, they are released back into the wild after an extensive rehabilitation process.
During visiting hours, the elephants are fed and the keepers introduce each orphan and tell their story. It’s a rare opportunity to see these young elephants play together and interact with their keepers and potentially you!
The Elephant Orphanage is a great activity for children, conservationists and anyone who loves elephants. It is located adjacent to Nairobi National Park, not far outside Nairobi’s city centre. The entry fee is 500 Kenyan Shillings (approximately US$6) and the feeding and talks last for about one hour.
Are you keen to visit the baby elephants in Nairobi? Contact OTA on firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how.