a visit to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust
Slowly but surely I’m making progress on my travel journal, which documents our trip to Kenya and Tanzania last month. I’m on the final edit so hopefully I will be able to share it with you soon. In the meantime, I’d like to tell you about our visit to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT).
I think the very first time I heard about the DSWT was from the CBBC children’s program ‘The Really Wild Show’ but I can’t be sure as it was a long long time ago when I watched that programme! More recently, I know the organisation from the BBC series ‘The Elephant Diaries‘, and maybe you do too?
Through the zoocrew.eu project, I discovered the website of DSWT and also found they have a Twitter page, and a Facebook Fan Page. They are regularly posting updates and photos of the orphaned elephants and rhinos; the work they are doing is just incredible – go check them out!
When my husband’s birthday came around, I decided to foster an elephant from the DSWT in his name, but when I was browsing the website it was Maalim that stole my heart; a little black rhino, born prematurely and abandoned by his mother. He had just turned one year old and was absolutely adorable in the photos. I couldn’t have picked a more perfect gift. We have LOVED receiving updates on his progress, and if you didn’t already read his ‘Maalim and the Mattress‘ update then you must do. I know I’ve written about it before, but it really is a must-read! :-)
During the planning of our safari adventure to Kenya and Tanzania, it worked out that on our way home we’d be spending a number of hours in Nairobi, Kenya, waiting for the overnight flight back to Amsterdam. If only we could arrive in Nairobi a bit earlier so we could visit the DSWT and see Maalim! It was difficult to arrange because we first had to fly to Nairobi from Ndutu in the Southern Serengeti/Ngorongoro Conservation Area in Tanzania. But Karin, the Director at Wild Times Safaris, worked her magic and with some careful planning we were able to visit the orphanage in the afternoon on our last day. Thank you SO much Karin!
So the day came. Our first plane was late and we had three small flights before we would arrive in Nairobi. We were very nervous as we waited; we absolutely did not want to miss our visit to the DSWT. When our plane landed on the airstrip we both let out a big sigh of relief. Three flights later, all on small aircraft (and the last flight was a very bumpy ride!) we arrived in Nairobi.
We had some time to spare before our appointment at the DSWT so we first visited the Giraffe Centre – but I’ll blog about the Giraffe Centre another time ;-)
The DSWT is adjoined to Nairobi National Park; we entered via the ‘Kenya Wildlife Service’ gate and followed the signs for ‘Sheldrick’. We were so happy to be able to visit and couldn’t wait to meet with the keepers and see the orphaned elephants and rhinos; most of all we couldn’t wait to meet Maalim!
We waited patiently whilst the keepers locked Shida, a large male rhino, in his enclosure. Shida left the Trust two years ago but often comes back to visit. He can sometimes be aggresive so for safety reasons he had to be put in his enclosure before the visitors were allowed into the area.
Little Maalim was the first to appear. He was still so tiny and so cute as well!
It was wonderful to see him and we watched almost in amazement as he happily made his way to his night stable. He knew exactly where to go!
In his stable area, one of the keepers wrapped a blanket around him whilst he greedily drank his milk from a bottle. He was so adorable to watch and we stroked his face just above his upper lip.
Now for a video share:
Look, you can see his mattress :-) he sleeps underneath it with his head poking out one side and his tail out of the other! lol
The elephants were the next to enter their night enclosures and stables. They all walked very close to us and each knew exactly where to go. The very last elephant was little Mawenzi. She literally crept around the corner and slowly and cautiously made her way towards us, then she trundled off to her night stable. When you watch the video you’ll know exactly which one shy Mawenzi is ;-) Meanwhile, we heard a commotion in Olare and Sabachi’s enclosure. They were playing a game of push and shove, you’ll also see this on the video! This time Olare had started it (the one without a blanket on) but one of the keeper’s told us that often it’s Sabachi that’s the “naughty boy”.
Once they had settled we walked over to Olare and Sabachi and stayed with them for a long time. Sabachi was very friendly and came to say hello, waving his trunk in circles and placing it in our hands. He would lift up his trunk and rest it on the top of his head so that we could stoke the underside. He also nudged my hand to find my finger to suck on it! All of the elephants liked to do that, it’s comforting for them. Sabachi put his trunk through a gap in the fence to reach the water trough; we knew what was coming next so we both took a step back. Sure enough, Sabachi squirted water through the gate in our direction – cheeky! He was really quite a character and before long he had my right hand and arm covered in the dust and dirt that he was covered in from his dirt baths.
We asked the keeper why some of them shared an enclosure and others didn’t; Olare and Sabachi are good friends and spend their days together when they are outside their enclosures in the Park. When elephants become good friends they will share the same night enclosure. In June this year, all the elephants in the same row of enclosures as Olare and Sabachi will go to Tsavo National Park to join a wild herd of elephants and once again live in the wild.
Next door to Olare and Sabachi was Dida (you probably heard the two children shouting her name in the video, they were excited to see her!). Though still young she is the oldest female; this makes her the boss and all the other elephants know she has the matriachal role of the group. When she lifted up her trunk we could see two tiny tusks growing; she looked so sweet and adorable! Dida will also be going to Tsavo in June.
We walked accross to visit Malia in another row of stables. She was enjoying some tasty leaves from the tree branch in her stable. Her keeper was telling us that the elephants are very good time keepers. If you are just a minute late with the milk the elephants let you know. The keepers sleep inside the stable with the younger elephants, and if they don’t wake up in time for the morning milk feed, the elephants will steal the blanket off the keeper to wake them up!
When we popped our head through the stable door of Mawenzi, next door to Malia, we found her hiding her head amongst the branches. She didn’t move, even when her keeper called her; apparently she is not nearly this shy when she is out playing with the other elephants in the park.
The guide came over to tell us that we had only five minutes left of our visit so we went to say goodbye to Maalim but his top stable door was now closed. So instead, we peeked in on the youngest elephant, Shukuru. She was only a few months old, still very small with a tiny little trunk and short little legs. So sweet.
Visiting the DSWT was certainly one of the highlights of our trip and totally made our day. Since we’ve returned home, we’re now also fostering Sabachi and Shukuru too. It is a wonderful thing that they are doing there. It must be very special for each of the keepers to be such a big a part of these elephants lives; certainly we wish we were in their shoes.
And one last video share:
Founder and Chair of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, Dr Dame Daphne Sheldrick, reflects on the DSWT’s wildlife conservation projects and how this life saving work is possible only thanks to the charity’s global network of supporters and foster parents.
The giraffe’s are next… watch this space ;-)
** this post appeared first on Tigs Creations Photography **
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See my ‘Impressions’ blog post over at Natalie Carstens | The Birth Photographer for the latest selection of photos!
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