Thursday, 26 April 2012

Feed A Giraffe....Or Pet An Elephant Calf!

When we came to have a look at Nairobi last May,we did not know whether we would be relocating here or not.I was not sure if we would find a school that would match our expectations and also be worth leaving Pune for and the other major factor was that my husband's work permit had not come through and there was no guarantee it would before the start of the new academic year in Nairobi!So,keeping in mind the fact that we might not get another opportunity,I had two places on my list of 'must-sees' which we simply had to visit!
One was the Giraffe Center and the other was the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Elephant Orphanage.We had been listening to people talk about the amazing experience they had had in the former throughout our stay in Tanzania!The latter was my widely read mother's discovery.She had been collecting articles about the elephant orphanage for years and so we were determined to visit it despite the fact that we paid the entrance fees charged to 'foreigners'which are huge compared to what we would have paid today as residents of East Africa!But that did not deter us for who knew if we would get such a chance again!
A typical,cold,cloudy,Nairobi morning found us speeding(well,as much as you can speed in peak hour Nairobi traffic!)in a taxi(we were tourists,then,remember?)towards the giraffe park.A quick stop to purchase tickets as soon as we reached and then we were set to do something unique!The Giraffe Center was set up in 1979 in a bid to save the endangered Rothschild Giraffe and has been hugely successful in doing the same.The best part of visiting the center is that you get a chance to personally feed a giraffe!I backed out at the last moment and was content to watch the children who very enthusiastically fed a number of giraffes.The giraffes,with their thick,leathery tongues couldn't wait to gobble up the treat offered and slobbered saliva all over the children's hands!They did not mind in the least but the guide must have seen my look of disgust because she was quick to inform me that giraffe saliva has antiseptic properties!Thank you but give me Dettol or Savlon any day!
Then we read a lot of information that was displayed about this elegant animal.My son solved the huge wooden giraffe body parts puzzle kept right there,we purchased a few souvenirs of this delightful place,I made the kids scrub their hands raw and we were set to visit the next place on our agenda!
The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust was founded in memory of David Sheldrick,the founder warden of one of Kenya's most famous National Parks-Tsavo East,by his wife Dr.Dame Daphne Sheldrick in 1977.Among their many commendable projects is the one in which orphaned baby elephants are reared by hand by a team of handlers till they are old enough to be released into the wild again.At 11:00 a.m every morning these babies are fed by hand from milk bottles in front of an adoring crowd and that is what we had come to watch!
The elephant calves trotted out behind their handlers and came and stood in the roped off area,at the stroke of the hour!The gigantic milk bottles were already in place!The mothers of most of these calves had been shot by poachers for ivory(yes,the tragedy of the African elephant is that even the female has tusks,unlike the Asian female elephants) and they had been too young to survive on their own in the wild.Luckily for them they had been rescued and brought to Sheldrick's orphanage before it was too late for them.It was a treat to watch these calves guzzling down the feed and nuzzling their handlers with their trunks.Sadly these calves would never know their mothers and were showing affection towards each handler in the same manner as they would have shown to their own mothers.Some of them were so young when found that they have no memories of their elephant mother.And that,knowing the phenomenal memory that an elephant has,is saying something!I wish people would realize that only elephants should wear ivory!
Once their hunger was appeased,the calves became frisky!They began overturning the buckets of water,they enjoyed squirting muddy water on themselves and began rolling in the little ponds built for this purpose!The tiniest ones had blankets to protect them from the cold and all of them came to the edge of the ring to be petted by adults and children alike!They were too sweet for words!
The Trust gives people all over the world a chance to adopt elephants,which means that you can choose to pay an amount towards the upkeep of a calf for a year and you will be regularly updated about it's progress.It is no easy task to feed an elephant whether calf or adult!

On the way out my son,who is as frisky as an elephant calf,almost had a head on collision with a wart hog!Yes,wart hogs run freely around the orphanage!It was really hilarious to see both him and the wart hog take off in opposite directions!I don't know who was more scared but I suspect it was the wart hog!A fitting end to a fulfilling day!It happens only in Africa!


  1. It's not only a dog's life but also an elephant's or a giraffe's

    1. Yes,and they deserve it after the way animals were indiscriminately shot in Asia and Africa by big game hunters!

  2. oh my! what a fun exciting adventure!!! My kids would love this experience!
    I am your newest follower from the hop..pls follow back if you can.
    great pictures!

  3. Thank you so much!Am following you back and have left a comment there as well!

  4. Too cute for words !! loved the pictures too ..


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