My first encounter with the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust was in a book I read when I was about 10 years old. That was a while back but I remember being fascinated by how the keepers would stay with the elephant calves every hour of the day and at night sometimes they would share a blanket while sleeping in the same pen.
I had visited the orphanage before but this was my first time visiting as an adult. I am not the biggest fan of going to places alone, I find experiences more enjoyable when I have someone to share them with, so I asked my friend to come along. The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust was established in 1977 to honour the memory of a famous Naturalist ,David Leslie William Sheldrick MBE.
Sadly, Kenya’s elephant population has been greatly reduced in recent years because of the increase in poaching. Many baby elephants are left orphaned and lacking sources of provision. Luckily, this is where DSWT comes in. They take in the orphaned elephants and give them all the care and love they deserve. If my memory serves me right, the elephants stay in the orphanage until they are 4 years old. It is at that point that they are then transported to Tsavo National Park.
Once over the Nursery stage, and in Tsavo, the orphans begin their long and gradual re-integration back into the wild elephant community. The DSWT website is full of useful information if you want to learn more about the trust and the orphans. You can also foster a baby elephant for as little as $50 per year.
DWST is inside Nairobi National Park. One of the best things about living in Nairobi is that we have a national park right in the city. It is easily accessible via public transport. Just get a matatu number 125 heading to Rongai and get off at the KWS Workshop gate which is off Magadi Road. From there it’s a bit of a walk but it is not too far.The orphanage can also be accessed by vehicle using the same route (I think). The entrance fee (or minimum contribution as they call it) is Kshs500 for everyone regardless of whether you are a citizen or not.
We got there late. You can only visit the orphanage from 11am-12pm daily. They have 2 groups of orphans, the younger lot and the slightly older lot. You get to see the elephant calves in that order. I’d advise one to get there early so that you have a nice spot to view the elephants, kinda like a front row seat in a concert . It doesn’t get too crowded on weekdays but if you’re short then showing up late will do you no good.
Elephants sleep in the same place with their keepers. The keepers are rotated so that the calves don’t get depressed when the keeper is away.
Elephant calves are adorable. One of my favorite experiences was watching them run into the enclosure for their milk. The elephant calves are fed on baby formula. SMA to be precise. They guzzle that stuff down and I am sure the orphanage goes through like a ton of that stuff. On average, calves in the wild drink about 10L of milk daily. They are fed every 3 hrs.While watching them feed, one of the keepers spoke about the orphans.
The orphanage is a gem of a place in the capital city. If you are ever in Nairobi, I would definitely recommend that you make a trip to the orphanage.
This story was curated by Rachael Kimaku.