By Kate Dernocoeur, Guest Blogger
The social nature of elephants closely parallels that of humans, and nowhere is that more evident than in a mudbath or (for kids) a playground. While visiting the Nairobi Orphan Nursery sponsored by donations to The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, we recently watched two groups of elephants trundle in separately from the bush of the adjoining national park. Visitors are allowed in only this once each day, as the elephants partake of their 11 AM bottles of formula—and a bit of pool time.
These babies have been found in the wilder expanses of Kenya, orphaned due to various causes but mostly because of poaching—a scourge fed by an expanding lust for ivory as the middle class of China mushrooms, and by the “need” for ivory icons perceived by some in the Catholic church.
After drinking their fill, the elephant babies play in the mud bath with the joy of any kid hitting the cool pool in the heat of midday.
Their antics must tickle even the most hardened heart! Smitten by the strength and love and intelligence of elephants for many years now, I felt so lucky to be witness to this important conservation effort—and also to be on my way to walk among elephants for 100 miles in the true wild (more blogs to come).
The groups soon departed back into the park, where they will learn to function as wild animals. Someday, if all goes well, they will be truly free. (There will be another intermediate step for these orphans a few hundred miles away in northern Tsavo East National Park (Kenya), where they will—everyone hopes—be adopted by wild elephant bands already living there.
It’s not too late to save the elephants, although their future becomes more grim with each carcass discovered, tusks hacked off, or with news that entire watering holes have been poisoned, killing off entire elephant families. Saving these magnificent creatures matters, or should, even to people on other continents. Without elephants, the world would indeed be ever so much emptier.
For more information, please visit The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust at www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org
Kate Dernocoeur is filled with a sense of adventure that frequently leads her astray from her “to-do” list. In September 2013, she joined a group of friends on The Great Walk of Africa, an iconic journey of 100 miles on foot across southeastern Kenya. She lives with her German shepherd dog in Lowell, Michigan, where she is a volunteer firefighter and a member of Kent County Search & Rescue.