Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Caretaker & orphaned baby elephant

David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust operates an elephant orphanage just outside Nairobi, Kenya. The sanctuary cares for elephant calves (& to a small extent, baby rhinos) orphaned sometimes from drought or accident but mostly when ivory poachers kill their mothers. Orphaned elephants who witness the death & dismemberment of their mothers suffer acute trauma & grief & their rehabilitation requires sustained doting & personal care. Under two years of age, they also require hand feedings. At the orphanage, a caretaker watches over each baby 24/7, including in the stable at night. After 2-4 years at the orphanage, the calves are moved to rehabilitation in the Tsavo National Park (150 miles/240 km away near Voi) where they spend another 6-8 years. When they’re ready to live in the wild, they venture out on their own, only to return when they are injured & need help or to introduce their calves to their former caretakers.

Elephants are deeply emotional & loving animals & form intense bonds of love with their rescuers & caretakers. According to the caretakers, the love goes both ways. As one caretaker said, “It’s not for the wages. The more you're with them, the more you satisfy yourself. You just love them." That bond is more than evident here between caretaker & orphan at the Sheldrick orphanage. (Photo by Michael Nichols/National Geographic)

1 comment:

  1. This is beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time.