Today I arrived in Nairobi and visited the Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage and the Nairobi National Museum! Part 1 will focus on the Elephant Orphanage, and Part 2 (if I get it together) will focus on the museum.
This wildlife trust raises orphaned and abandoned baby elephants and rhinos brought from all over Kenya. Once a baby has been reported orphaned, it is airlifted into the nursery section of Nairobi National Park, where the caretakers can monitor it constantly.
They are open to the public for a single feeding (11-12 pm) everyday. The final group was a mix of tourists and very young local school children (definitely all under 10) on field trips.
Here are the caretakers and their wheelbarrow full of giant baby bottles!
Here are the first babies!
These are the youngest two, aged at about 10 months.
It took Dr. Sheldrick 28 years to perfect the baby formula these elephants are being given.
The babies can’t be fed cow milk because the fat content is way too high – elephants can’t process foods that high in fat.
The milk these elephants are fed is actually nearly human baby formula, but with extra fat emulsifiers added in.
More hungry mouths coming around!
After everyone has been fed, one of the nursery attendants talks to the crowd about the reasons for these elephants’ predicaments (overwhelmingly due to human impact), as well as introduces all the different elephants. This first group is made up of 11 younger and smaller babies, aged between 10 months and 2.5 years. There are currently 25 in total, with 6 being too young or shy to come to such a public feeding.
While the attendant speaks, the babies play!
At a certain point the younger group just leaves and the larger babies come out!
There are 8 elephants in this group, and they are aged 2-4 years. They are noticeably larger.
The baby elephants are fed a total of 24 L of milk a day with a feeding every three hours. In the wild, baby elephants nurse for a minimum of two years. At the nursery, they are formula fed up until 4 years. The 3-4 year olds are in the process of being weaned.
Once they turn four, the elephants are moved to a different location to improve their elephant social skills. The keepers actually move out with them (rotating keepers switch back and forth between nursery and park) and help them integrate into a wild herd. This process of rewilding is variable according to each elephant, but by they are generally fairly well integrated by the time they turn 8.