Sunday, May 22, 2016

Orphan Baby Elephants

Yesterday, on our P-Day (our preparation day) our mission president, President Hicken, and his wife took us to see the orphan baby elephants at the Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage which is on the edge of the Nairobi National Park.  These are baby elephants from the wild whose mothers have died or who have been killed by poachers.  Kenya has a real problem with poachers who kill the elephants for the ivory in their tusks.  Just a few weeks ago Kenya burned a whole pile of tusks as a statement to the world that the tusks are not to be used to make money.  If people wouldn't buy them, the poachers wouldn't kill the elephants for them.  Piano keys used to be made of ivory.

Sometimes they find baby elephants that have fallen down well holes.  Sometimes they have been caught in traps.  One of the elephants had his leg hanging by the skin from being caught in a trap.  He now walks with a decided limp but they have hopes that he will yet gain full use of his leg.

When they find these baby elephants, they bring them back to this refuge.  The keepers take care of the babies 24 hours per day.  The public is allowed to see them for only one hour per day.  That way, they have little contact with people (except for their keepers).  Eventually, when the elephants are about 3 years old, they will gradually be introduced back into the wild.

You've heard the saying, "Elephants never forget."  Well these elephants never forget their keepers, even after they've been back in the wild for years.  If they get sick or hurt, they automatically return to this refuge for help.  When they're better, they go back into the wild.  Since the refuge started, they have reintroduced 300 elephants back into the wild.

This refuge is just on the edge of Nairobi National Park which borders Nairobi.  We'll go driving there sometime on another P-Day.

Be sure to click on the pictures to enlarge them.

The babies are fed publicly once per day.  There are 33 orphan babies right now.  The keepers feed them formula specially developed by David Sheldrick's wife Daphne.  Many elephants died before the Sheldricks found a formula that worked.  Cow's milk will kill a baby elephant.  The babies are fed with large bottles of formula.  They're able to grab the bottles and hold them with their trunks.

Each elephant has a definite personality as well as physical markings.  The keepers know each elephant by name.

So fun to see the baby elephants.  When LeRon & I were in Thailand a couple of years ago, we got to ride an elephant for an hour into the bush.  It was an amazing experience.

This elephant looks pretty big for a baby.

Besides feeding them formula, the keepers bring in brush for the elephants to eat.  It was so amazing to see how they pick up a branch and pull the leaves off and put it in their mouths.

This baby kept going down to take a drink but every time he got near the water, he would start sliding down into it.  He finally gave up.

The babies were annoying each other!  Just like kids!

These babies were fighting over this branch.  Again . . . Just like kids!

The backs of their ears felt very rubbery.  When they came close to us, we got to reach out and feel them.

Their skin is so leathery looking.  I think they need to use some face cream!  Their skin felt so hard and rough.  Lots of tiny prickly hairs.

Long eyelashes too.

Even though this is a baby, you wouldn't want him to step on you.  This one came close to us and actually stepped over the rope.  We had to push him back to where he belonged.

So interesting when they flap their ears.

This is an older one.  You can see its tusks which are just growing in.  Just like human babies who are teething, the elephants also have discomfort and itchiness as the tusks are growing in.  Tusks start to come in when baby elephants are a few months old but they don't actually emerge for quite a long time.

This baby flipped its milk bottle away and it spilled.  Now he's trying to drink it up with his trunk.

These older babies are eating from an acacia tree.  Can you see the sharp needles on the tree? 

In the background is a herd of warthogs.  They were huge and were fighting amongst themselves.  I don't think I'd like to meet one in the dark!

After seeing the orphan baby elephants, the Hickens took us to a lovely restaurant called "Tamambo Karen Blixen Coffee Garden".  It's a gorgeous place with such beautiful green foliage.  We ate outside in the garden.
We met this artist, Eric Mathenge.  His and his colleague's paintings were displayed all over the gardens.  They paint in oil and acrylic.  We liked these black and white paintings.  We've learned that when we see something we like, we should buy it because we may never see it again.  But actually we could have seen it again because Eric is always here painting and displaying.
The top photo is of Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and the bottom one is of Mt. Kenya in (of course) Kenya.  The artist lived near Mt. Kenya and so saw scenes like this every day when he was growing up.  Here LeRon, and President & Sister Hicken are showing off the paintings.


  1. Very neat!! I will definitely show this to the kids when they get home from school!

  2. Hi LeRon and Colleen,
    It's so fun to see your pictures! Colleen, you are doing an excellent job documenting your mission!! I just showed your blog to Dallin's best friend, who got called to the Benin-Cotonou mission in Africa so he could see some pictures of the landscape. Love you both and wish you the very best! -Beckie Henrie