Orphaned elephants get new life in Kenya

When Enkesha was found in Kenya’s Masai Mara in 2017, the baby elephant’s trunk was nearly severed by the tightly wrapped wire trap.

He was in severe pain and was at risk of losing the appendix so necessary for food and survival.

It took a three hour operation and a lot of aftercare but, two years later, the calf’s trunk has healed well. When CNN Travel meets her at the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust elephant orphanage in March 2019, she is with the rest of the nursery’s small herd, none taller than four feet, walking through the undergrowth, pulling the foliage with their nimble trunks.

The trap that endangered Enkesha is one of more than 150,000 removed by the trust since it established its first trap removal team in 1999, as part of its ongoing work to protect and conserve wildlife and habitats. wild in Kenya.

The elephant orphanage in Nairobi National Park, which is part of the Her Orphans Project, is the most famous of the foundation’s nine programmes. Founded in 1977, it was the first organization in the world to hand-raise milk-dependent orphaned elephants and reintegrate them into the wild.

how to raise an elephant
“Through the nursery here, we have raised more than 244 elephants,” the trust’s chief executive, Angela Sheldrick, tells CNN Travel. Elephants orphaned due to poaching, habitat destruction and human-wildlife conflict are collected by rescue teams and cared for by keepers here.

“When you’re up against a baby elephant, it’s a long-term project,” she explains, because “their lives mirror ours.” A one-year-old elephant is as vulnerable and needs care as a human child.

We currently have 93 elephants that depend on milk,” she says. “They are with us for the first three years here at the nursery. Once they grow up, they need to be exposed to wild herds because ultimately every elephant we raise goes back to living a wild life. We just guide them through the difficult years of milk dependency.”

It takes time and patience to introduce them to independent living. Sheldrick says. “Like their own children, they do not fly the nest quickly. They need to have that confidence.” The process takes up to 10 years, but the students at the nursery are flourishing. There are now about 150 rehabilitated orphans, with 30 known calves of their own.

The trust has also hand-reared 17 rhinos. One of the most popular residents is Maxwell, a rhino who was born blind and later rejected by his mother. He has been in his nursery “forever home” since 2007.

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