The David Sheldrick is a haven for orphaned elephants. Born from one family’s passion for Kenya and its wilderness, the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust is today the most successful orphan-elephant rescue and rehabilitation program in the world and one of the pioneering conservation organisations for wildlife and habitat protection in East Africa. Everyday the gates open to the public from 11am to noon and with a small fee of $5 per visitor, you are able to see the young elephants up close, touch them and listen to their stories.
There are few places left on the planet where the impact of people has not been felt. We have explored and left our footprint on nearly every corner of the globe. As our population and needs grow, we are leaving less and less room for wildlife.
Wildlife are under threat from many different kinds of human activities, from directly destroying habitat to spreading invasive species and disease. Most ecosystems are facing multiple threats. Each new threat puts additional stress on already weakened ecosystems and their wildlife.
At the heart of the DSWT’s conservation activities is the Orphans’ Project, which has achieved world-wide acclaim through its hugely successful elephant and rhino rescue and rehabilitation program. The Orphans’ Project exists to offer hope for the future of Kenya’s threatened elephant and rhino populations as they struggle against the threat of poaching for their ivory and horn, and the loss of habitat due to human population pressures and conflict, deforestation and drought.
To date the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust has successfully hand-raised over 150 infant elephants and has accomplished its long-term conservation priority by effectively reintegrating orphans back into the wild herds of Tsavo.
This place has now become famous for visitors, since I first came here, the number of visitors have continued to grow by the day which is a good thing for the foundation. Visitors who wish to adopt a baby elephant are welcomed to do so. Having placed a donation to help the elephant, they receive monthly updates about their baby and any time with an appointment, they are allowed to visit without any additional charges.
So today I took my two nieces for a treat, at this place. First Imani was fascinated by the fact that the baby elephants will be very close to her and she will want to touch them. Ningala, wasn’t talking much. We were at the gate a few minutes past 10am, everybody had worked up for this much treasured hour. Most of the crowd were tourists, and others were Kenyans visiting from the United States……..ask me how I know about that, and a few of us including tour drivers and guides. It was dusty, auto machines were taking over the whole parking.
The DSWT is located on the Kenya Wildlife Workshop Gate off Magadi road, about 20km from the city centre. Its accessible by car because you have to drive through the park to access the Sheldrick gate. The elephant Nursery is located in Nairobi National Park. In addition, there are 3 reintegration units are located in the Greater Tsavo Conservation Area at Voi, Ithumba and Umani Springs in the Kibwezi Forest. At the notice board, we could see all in pictures and their stories well written, and we fell in love with Jotto and we wanted to know more about Jotto.
Jotto was rescued on the 21st March 2016, having fallen down a well in the Namunyak Conservancy in Northern Kenya. He was found by herdsmen who had taken their cattle for water at the well on the morning of the 20th of March. They reported the calf to Namunyak Conservancy staff who later sent their scouts to extract the baby. He was rescued at around 10am and the team remained with the calf at the scene, whilst rangers attempted to locate the mother for the rest of the day.
March is always the hottest time of the year in Kenya, particularly at lower altitudes, and this last year due to the equinox combined with unpredictable weather patterns due to global warming, ambient temperatures countrywide were a lot warmer than anyone can remember, with advice to people at sea level to remain indoors and take regular cold showers in order to avoid heat stroke. For this reason, they named this little well victim “Jotto” (in Swahili spelled ‘Joto’ and pronounced “Injoto~ – the word that describes such hot conditions).
The babies were taking milk in two groups, first one with younger elephants and the second, those who are a little older. Jotto was in the first group, but we kept guessing who Jotto was, we were all wrong. After they had taken their milk they played around and with the visitors. A gentleman who I have encountered all the times I have visited here, who speaks really good english and carries the history and the names of all the baby elephants in his head takes the microphone and commands the stage and the visitors listen keenly. Then he introduced us to Jotto, standing at the far end from where we were standing.
Jotto is now one year and six months. His ordeal maybe behind him, but they say elephants have a great memory so its safe to say he hasn’t forgotten why he ended up here and he will not forget years after he has left the orphanage and taken back to the wild, to create a new family….something that takes well over six years.
If you are in Nairobi, maybe catching a flight later or whatever, this is a must visit. It will be a day well spent, with opportunity of up close with this lovely playful babies. Adopting or just donating to the foundation that is doing much more for this vulnerable ones. This place is also good for those who want to keep their minds off work, at least for one hour, doctors say………that can increase productivity.
Am not a doctor, am just a lover of nature, so my advice has no basis or reliability that my own meandering experience.