Elephant close-up

Raising Elephant Orphans

While we were in Nairobi we had the chance to visit the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.

The trust takes care of orphaned baby elephants and rhinos, who lost their mothers and family, before reintegrating them into the wild.

Another important mission is monitoring the wildlife area and preventing illegal activities.

The most common reason for infants to become orphans is poaching, apart from deforestation or drought.

More and more elephants and rhinoceroses are killed every year for their ivory and horn.

Babies, if not killed as well, lose their mothers and hence become orphans.

And that’s where the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust steps in.

Elephant Infant

What do they do?

When an orphaned elephant or rhino is fortunate enough to be found alive the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust takes them in.

During the first few month after the traumatizing event of losing their mother, the babies need a lot of attention and caring.

The Trust’s Fostering Programme provides a secure home and a loving environment at the time of their deepest grief.

Elephants are very tactile and social animals.

They depend on physical contact and genuine affection.

The ‘Keepers’, who raise the elephants in the nursery, sleep with them at night and feed them, give them the love and devotion they need.

Apart from 24/7 care, the infants depend on their mother’s milk the first 2 years of their life.

It took Daphne Sheldrick, the founder of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, years of trial and error to find the right milk formula for the baby orphans.

They need to get fed every 3 hours, day and night.

Elephant getting fed

Elephant shower

At the age of 3 to 4 years, the infants start eating larger amounts of vegetation and the quantity of milk feeding is reduced.

It depends on the personality of each orphan when they are ready to be transferred to one of the National Parks to meet wild herds of elephants and to start the reintegration process.

Usually, they are integrated into the wild community by the age of ten.

Before that big step the ‘Keepers’ spend many days with them out in the bush and sometimes the orphans are welcomed by former orphans and invited for a ‘stayover’ in the wild herd.

If the infants get scared, spending their first night apart from the ‘Keepers’, the only contact they know close to family, the older, former orphans will guide them back to the humans.

It is a long and delicate process to reintroduce the elephants back into the wild, especially if they lost their family at a young age.

Geplaatst door The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust op Dinsdag 28 november 2017


Since the first orphan, the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust has successfully reintegrated 200 elephants into the wild.

The success of the Orphan’s program is due to the help of many organizations and individuals.

In particular the Trust’s Fostering Programme.

And that’s where YOU come in.

What can YOU do?

You can easily become a foster parent.

With a one-time donation or donating on a regular base, you can help the baby orphans to get nursed back to health and reintroduced into a wild elephant family.

Adopt an orphan now.

And help to send them back into the wild, where they belong!

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