An elephant orphanage in Kenya is testing goat’s milk as food for its small herds as a potentially healthier and cheaper form of nutrition than baby formula. This solution also generates money for the local community.
The Reteti Elephant Sanctuary in Samburu County in the semi-arid arid region of northern Kenya helps rescue orphaned and abandoned baby elephants.
When the elephants are old enough to survive on their own, the sanctuary established in 2016 will release them back into the wild.
The sanctuary has been using expensive infant formula to feed the calves, but Dr. Steven Chege, the facility’s veterinarian advisor, told Reuters they have started using goat’s milk-based formula as a potential substitute, especially for infant calves.
“This is an animal that has lost both its mother and its family,” he said. “Goat’s milk is perfect for the survival and health of young (elephant) calves.”
He said that human infant formula is expensive, and switching to cheaper goat milk could reduce the cost of feed for the reserve’s herd, which ranges from 15 to 30 heads.
“Goat’s milk is rich in protein, and not just protein, it’s a very digestible protein, unlike cow’s milk,” he said.
On a recent day, calves dashed through a dusty field to take a sip of milk, revealing budding tusks as they opened their small mouths to suckle bottles.
Local goat farmer Liwana Lenakukunyia, one of many farmers selling goat milk to the reserve, said she was happy to have a new source of revenue. Many of the farmers benefiting from the new program are women.
“Since we started milking goats and selling milk to the sanctuary, at least we have our own cash so you can feed your family,” she said.