These elephants could have had a difficult start in life, but it has not deterred them from loving – as these beautiful photographs from the inside of an elephant orphanage illustrate.
The adorable shots illustrate baby elephants seeking comfort from their guardians and provide a rarely seen view into the strange world of disturbed youngsters — many of them orphaned directly or indirectly due to human actions.
Despite their short lives being plagued by loss, these newborn elephants still have a lot of love to share as they snuggle up to keepers at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust’s (DSWT) unique orphanage in Kenya’s Nairobi National Park.
A DSWT representative stated: Many of these kids have lost their mothers to humans, and while they were still milk dependent and so young that they had experienced this emotional and sometimes physical pain, it is our duty to nurture and care for them so that when they return to the wild, they not only survive but also thrive.
Orphans’ Projects provide hope and healing for these traumatized children, and their human caregivers work around the clock to provide love, protection, care, and milk to orphaned herds in the same way their mothers would have done.
For 40 years, the DSWT has been rescuing and hand-raising milk-dependent orphaned baby elephants so that they may come back to the wild in a protected area when they’re older.
Dame Daphne Sheldrick DBE is a British veterinarian and founder of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, which provides milk to bottle-reared elephant calves and other wildlife.
The DSWT travels throughout Kenya to aid orphaned elephants abandoned without hope of survival.
Many of the children saved were victims of human-wildlife conflicts, habitat devastation, or po.ach.ing and are on the verge of starvation.
The keepers constantly feed the infants milk as surrogate mothers, spending 24 hours a day, 365 days a year with them, even sleeping in their stables with them.
This strong family connection develops between the keepers and the elephants that helps the newest orphans overcome their tough starts.
The elephants stay in the Nursery until they are ready to travel to one of three Reintegration Units located in safe areas within Southern Kenya.
Each elephant orphan in the Rehabilitation Units’ second phase is gradually introduced back into wild herds, taken at their own speed over ten years and growing to become a much-loved human-elephant family before living out their days in wild liberty.
The DSWT maintains 11 De-Snaring Teams, in collaboration with the Kenya Wildlife Service, as well as Aerial Surveillance and a Canine Unit made up of fully trained tracker dogs to detect wildlife crime, to safeguard their safety.