Sheldricks is an amazing sanctuary for orphaned elephants and rhino. On hearing of a new orphan, the team swings into action to rescue it as quickly as possible, generally by way of small plane. It is then brought to the nursery at Nairobi where it is nurtured back to health, both physically and mentally.
Elephants are so much like people when it comes to their family, and they live just as long as we do (around 70 yrs) and their age habits are much the same as ours. So if a young child was to foster a ele, they could be true friends for all their lives, going through childhood and teenage years at about the same time. Wierd when you think of it. They have extremly strong ties and it is just as important to care for their mental health as much as their physical. It is true, not all the elephants that are rescued survive.... but it is quite a big percentage that do, and go on to live wonderful lives as wild elephants living in the bush at Tsavo N.P.
Over the years Dame Dafne has learnt a lot of the secrets to keeping them healthy,... one is NEVER to give a ele cows milk... they cannot handle the fats in the milk and can be, most often, fatal. The first 2 years is when you have to be most on your guard, but no matter what is needed.... the ele's get it.
The young ele's stay in the Nairobi nursery till they are around the age of 2 years, at which time, when a group is ready, they are taken to specially made release sites in Tsavo, where they will spend the next 8 - 10 years, living as wild ele's in the bush, but with the security of a team of keepers & a stockade at night for those who are not ready to go it alone yet. For the older ones, their gate to the stockade is always left open, so they can make their own choice to stay in or out of the enclosure.
It is usually around the age of 7-10 years that they find the ele's will, in their own time, decide to stay away for a night or two, then gradually, stay away longer, often with a wild herd, until eventually, they will leave the stockade for good and only come back to visit on occassion.
We had the good fortune to be able to visit Ithumba, where we watched the excitment of a new day as they open the gates at 7am and gave the still milk dependant ele's their morning milk, (yes even at 2 years old, they are still babies, and will gradually start to ween off milk over a long period of time). The older ele's who chose to be out the night before, came back in time to escort the younger group out to the bush, where they browse at their leisure til noon, whenthey meet at a designated spot, so the young ones have their next bottles of milk, and they all have the mandatory mudbath. Off they go again, until around 5pmwhen they come back to the stockade where they get more milk, and browse for eating. The older ones can choose to stay in or wander out.
Like us, It is actually possible to foster your own ele or rhino for as little as u.s.$50 a year; (we now have 3 ele's); with that, you receive monthly updates of what's going on plus a water color picture to print. Every time a new rescue is made, that is also emailed to you, so you are always kept up to date.
This is a amazing place & a huge committment, but more details can be learnt at their website: .wwwsheldrickwildlifetrust.org