Welcome to the 363rd Metamorphosis Monday!
My metamorphosis this week is an unusual one, one of the animal kind. During my week long visit to Africa back in September for a photographic safari, on my last day there before my flight late that night, a guide took me to several fascinating places. I visited a bead factory where I didn’t buy anything but was super tempted.
I toured the home of Karen Blixen whose life story was told in the movie, Out of Africa. Her home is now a museum.
But the highlight of that day was our visit to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust which my guide referred to as the “elephant orphanage.” The DSWT is all about saving and hopefully increasing the elephant and rhino populations because sadly they are fast-moving toward extinction due to poachers killing them for their tusks and horns.
It was such a delight to see the baby elephants come running for one of their many feedings and to watch their caretakers feed them. You can see them running to eat and playing in the mud in the short video I shot below. After they gulped down two large bottles of milk, they played and played in a big watering hole the caretakers filled with water for them.
To date, the DSWT has successfully raised and released over 150 baby elephants. I was amazed when I heard what a commitment this was, not to mention the cost involved. Baby elephants have to be fed every 3 hours for 2-3 years because in the wild they feed from their mothers off and on all day.
The caretakers have to be with them 24/7, even sleeping with them during all those years because that’s the way it is in the wild. Elephants are very emotional and loving and if left alone during those critical years, they will not grow up emotionally stable. It’s amazing how many characteristics they share with us humans.
In nature they are never away from their mothers and extended family. An elephant will actually get depressed and grieve if left alone for just a few days, so they rotate which caretaker sleeps with each elephant in their stables at night so that when a caretaker is on vacation or out sick, the elephants won’t grieve for them.
Every elephant at the orphanage has a different story. Some have lost their mothers to poachers or disease. I adopted an elephant and a giraffe last night and the elephant I adopted was found down in a well. The herd had moved on so he was all alone.
Thank goodness he was found by one of their scouts who looks for orphaned elephants. I read that if the poaching continues, elephants could be extinct by 2025 in Africa. Hard to believe that it’s coming to this! I remember hearing about this issue back in the 80’s and had no idea it was even still going on.
You can see the baby elephants getting down on their knees to play in water/mud in the photo below. They were so spirited and fun to watch!
Some are able to hold their own bottles.
The information I learned that day was fascinating. You know how folks say elephants have a great memory? It’s true! Their memory is way, way better than ours. They are very intelligent and I was amazed to discover how many traits and characteristics they have that we think are strictly human.
For example, they cry, even shedding tears when they are sad. They also smile when they are happy! Here’s a quick excerpt from the DWST site that I found amazing.
Of course, Elephants share with us humans many traits – the same span of life, (three score years and ten, all being well) and they develop at a parallel pace so that at any given age a baby elephant duplicates its human counterpart, reaching adulthood at the age of twenty. Elephants also display many of the attributes of humans as well as some of the failings. They share with us a strong sense of family and death and they feel many of the same emotions. Each one is, of course, like us, a unique individual with its own unique personality. They can be happy or sad, volatile or placid. They display envy, jealousy, throw tantrums and are fiercely competitive, and they can develop hang-ups which are reflected in behaviour. They also have many additional attributes we humans lack; incredible long range infrasound, communicating in voices we never hear, such sophisticated hearing that even a footfall is heard far away, and, of course they have a memory that far surpasses ours and spans a lifetime. They grieve deeply for lost loved ones, even shedding tears and suffering depression. They have a sense of compassion that projects beyond their own kind and sometimes extends to others in distress. They help one another in adversity, miss an absent loved one, and when you know them really well, you can see that they even smile when having fun and are happy.
You can read more about their wonderful personalities and “human-like” traits here: Amazing Elephants
Eventually a few ostriches joined in for feeding. It’s been too long now so I can’t remember exactly why they were there, probably for rehabilitation. You’ll see them munching on leaves that were provided for them.
You can see the baby elephants in the background. They were all ages and sizes.
When the babies are around 3 years of age, they are slowly introduced to other elephant herds in the wild. Another way they are very much like us is if they have been raised by caretakers who have given them a lot of love, attention and physical contact, they will grow up to be emotionally healthy and will fit into a herd very easily when the time comes. If they haven’t been raised with a lot of attention and love, they will act out and be shunned. So the caretakers at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust have a big job on their hands. I would probably get attached and cry my eyeballs out when it was time for an elephant to leave, but that is always the goal.
When they are ready to join a herd in the wild, other elephants in the herd will help them adapt, even escorting them back to their stable at the orphanage if they become too afraid to spend the night out with the herd. Elephants are very emotional about leaving their caretakers and will go back and forth several times before they feel the call of nature and finally leave with the herd.
Sometimes they even come back for a visit! I loved this heartwarming story about Siria who came back for a visit this past Christmas with her herd. They really do remember and love the family that raised them. Soooo sweet! You can read that story here: A Christmas Surprise, The Return of Siria on 12-18-15. No wonder we love them so much, they really share so many human-like emotions.
When playing in the mud holes, the babies throw mud all over their backs. The caretakers also help them by shoveling it up out of the mud holes and tossing it onto their backs. Elephants can sunburn just like us, so this helps protect their skin and keep them cool when they are in the sun.
If you would like to sponsor an elephant, a rhino or a giraffe for a year, you can do that here: David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. They will email monthly updates with pictures of the baby you adopted along with diary entries from their keeper.
I didn’t get a chance to adopt an elephant the day I was there, so last night I adopted both an elephant and a giraffe. You can read about the baby elephant I adopted and see a video of her rescue from the well she had fallen into here: Naseku. She is doing great now and is making friends with all the other elephants at the elephant nursery. Read more about the baby giraffe I am fostering here: Kiko
It takes a lot of money to raise these babies over the space of three years so they appreciate and need all the donations they get. The more they get, the more babies they can save for release and the better they can enforce the anti-poaching laws. Please feel free to share this post with anyone you know who loves animals and would be interested in helping foster a baby elephant, giraffe or rhino.
Looking forward to all the wonderful Before and Afters for this Metamorphosis Monday!
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