A Metamorphosis of the Animal Kind: Baby Elephants Playing and Feeding

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.

Kazuri Bead Factory


I toured the home of Karen Blixen whose life story was told in the movie, Out of Africa. Her home is now a museum.

Karen Blixen's Home


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.

Elephants at The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust


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.

Baby Elephant Feeding at The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Elephant Orphanage


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!

Baby Elephant at The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust


Some are able to hold their own bottles.

Baby Elephants Project, The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust


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.

Feeding a Baby Elephant at The David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage


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

Baby Elephants Feeding at The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust


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.

Orphaned Baby Elephants at The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust


You can see the baby elephants in the background. They were all ages and sizes.

The David Sheldrick Elephant Project


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.

Baby Elephants,The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust


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.

Feeding a Baby Elephant at The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust


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

Breakfast with Daisy at Giraffe Manor, Kenya

Feeding Stacy on a visit to Giraffe Manor in September 2015


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.

Elephants at The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust


Looking forward to all the wonderful Before and Afters for this Metamorphosis Monday!

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  1. If you want to read a great story about the memory of elephants, go to this site:

    Elephants who had been saved by conservationist Lawrence Anthony showed up (inexplicably) at the time of his death. Very touching that these animals are so in tune with humans.

  2. I adore elephants. I fell in love with them as a child and having always been devastated when I see the inhumanity put on them. How cool that you got to tour the home of Karen Blixen. I hope you have interior pictures to share??

    • Unfortunatley, they wouldn’t let us take any pictures inside. The only room I remember with furniture was the dining room and it’s not the original furniture. They told us that Karen sold off the furniture when she going bankrupt, so the house is pretty sparsely furnished. There were some interesting photos on the wall showing her time there.

  3. Wow, what a fantastic experience! Thanks for sharing it, and for hosting! Liz

  4. Betty Marie says

    Oh! how sweet, Love elephants. What a wonderful trip that will last you a life time.

  5. Hi Susan, thank you for hosting!! Your party posts are always so interesting! It was so touching to see an orphanage for baby elephants and also tragic that these magnificent creatures may be extinct in our lifetime. Thank you for sharing more of your adventures with us – Christine.

  6. pam ~ crumpety cottage says


  7. WONDERFUL..,,and, it looks “warm!!” franki

  8. Thanks so much for the party Susan! You really had an amazing trip to Africa. Those baby elephants are absolutely adorable. Take care, Tara

  9. My daughter has adopted a Chimp and an Elephant – I can’t believe that in this day and age they are still slaughtering elephants for ivory – but even worse Susan that they still shoot anything for FUN – ( think Cecil the lion )
    LOVE the photos – I’m going to share the link with my daughter !
    Have a wonderful week
    And thanks so much for hosting !

  10. Awww, that are sooo precious! I loved seeing these pictures and reading about how they are cared for. Amazing that their caretakers stay with them all night. What dedication the caretakers have. It must be difficult to have cared for them so long and then turn them out into the wild. I bet the elephant and caretaker both have tears in their eyes when they let them go. Thank you for sharing this very interesting part of your trip. (And that Out of Africa house is wonderful.)

  11. Susan, those baby elephants are sooo cute! What a blessing that you were able to take such a lovely trip! Thank you for sharing and for hosting! Hope your 2016 is off to a good start! Toodles, Kathryn @TheDedicatedHouse

  12. Beautiful photographs! I just finished reading Jody Piccoult’s “Leaving Time” which is a mystery that revolves around an elephant sanctuary. I learned so much about elephants, their emotional ties to one another, and especial their parenting relationships that it inspired me to adopt a baby elephant as well. There is also a PBS documentary from 2015 entitled ‘The Soul of The Elephant’ and it is a stunningly beautiful production. Thanks for sharing your photos and memories of your trip. How lucky you were to see this first hand.

    • They truly are amazing, Patricia. I can’t get over how smart they are. It felt so good to sponsor one. I’m sure I’ll be renewing it every year, such a good cause!

  13. How cute is this! There is just something about baby elephants…loved them ever since “Dumbo!” have a great week!…hugs…Debbie

  14. Thanks for hosting. What an amazing trip you had!

  15. They even cry with tears. Touching!

  16. Susan,
    Thanks so much for hosting each week! Love the vlevet drapes, by the way!!


  17. Wonderful animals. I saw the giraffe video on Instagram I believe. What a great trip you had. Sheila

  18. They are just so amazing. And how much do we still not know about them?

  19. Cherry Goodson says

    Susan, after these many years I am not receiving any of the other bloggers that are usually on your blog. Love looking at the hundreds of pictures and all the different ways people decorate and craft. Have you changed anything on your end that would have effective my receiving all the different pictures? I’m not a blogger just a follower and these last two weeks have missed visiting with all the ladies. Thanks for letting me know if I need to change things or what. Cherry

    • Hi Cherry, Inlinkz has two codes that I can use each week. They are labeled “Old Widget” and “New Widget.” The old widget makes the links look all jumbled up and crammed together on my new Samsung phone…not properly spaced. I asked the owner of InLinkz about it and he said it’s because I’m using the old widget and that I should switch and use the new widget.
      When I use the new widget, the links look great on my phone and are spaced out correctly, not all crammed together. Take a look again right now for me. I just put the new widget code back in again, just to make sure I’m using the right one. Let me know if you can see the picture links. Also, what device are you using, phone, desktop, iPad? And is it an older device or pretty new? That will help me figure this all out.
      Each time I use the new code, I only get one or two emails about it, but maybe it’s not working for others and they just aren’t letting me know. I can definitely see them on my desktop computer, laptop and my Samsung phone that’s pretty new.
      After you look again, email me and let me know if you can see them now and what device you are viewing today’s post on.

  20. Cherry Goodson says

    Thanks for the quick reply Susan. I still am not receiving any of the other bloggers pictures. I am using a desktop computer, the same one I have been using and don’t have a smart phone, so this computer is my only access to your blog. Thanks for trying to fix the problem. It just seems strange to me that it all stopped and we haven’t changed anything, but I am so social media challenged that I’m not sure what else to do. Appreciate you and all the hours of enjoyment I have experience, and lots of new ideas as well over the last few years.

    • Cherry,
      I just put the old widget code back in for the links, so take a look now and let me know if you can see the links of the other bloggers.

      • Cherry Goodson says

        Yes, I do. Thank you so much. Cherry

        • Hi Cherry,
          I just sent you an email with an explanation of what I think is wrong. The guy at InLinkz said it sounds like you are using an older browser and it just needs to be updated. Do you use Internet Explorer or Firefox? Just update your browser to the latest version (you can do that online) and you should be able to see the links each week with me using the “new” widget. He encouraged me to continue using the new widget because he said their old widget has flaws.

        • Cherry, if you do update your browser (if that turns out to be the problem) please let me know and I’ll put the new widget code back in and we’ll see if you can see it then. I hope that’s the issue because that’s a super easy fix if it is. 🙂

  21. What a treat to watch the baby elephants play and eat! I just heard that Ringling Bros circus is retiring all their elephants, it’s so sad that they are endangered- Thanks for always a great Monday Susan-

  22. Thanks for sharing this, Susan.My husband & I’ve watched programs featuring the emotional complexities of elephants. It’s heart-warming and wrenching both. It’s good that this program exists. Have a great week, and thank you for being our host.

  23. I loved this post Susan. I dearly love elephants and those babies are so cute.
    How great that you adopted a elephant. It’s so sad that people are killing them for their tusks.
    I am so glad that you went on this vacation and it looks like you had a wonderful time.
    Thanks so much for the great party and have a great week.

  24. Susan, what a wonderful post! It’s appalling to know that this amazing animal is being driven to extinction because some people want to buy little ivory trinkets (and of course, because a lot of people are greedy). Thanks for hosting.

  25. Love all of this Susan! Thanks for sharing it and for hosting. Hope you have a great week!

  26. pam ~ crumpety cottage says

    Susan, I just realized! I haven’t seen a BNOTP library book in a while. Have you exhausted your resources or are you just taking a break? It seems everybody enjoyed that regular feature. You always had great books to share.

  27. Susan, this was an awesome blog! I’ve been following the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust for quite a while through their Facebook page. They do such wonderful work and how lucky you were to have the opportunity to visit. Thanks for the wonderful photos.

  28. Just read in the paper today that Ringling Brothers is retiring all the elephants from their circus in May. Eighteen months ahead of previous schedule! They have a place for them somewhere between Tampa and Orlando. Too bad that there is no way to tell them to hang in there a few more months, and then greener pastures–literally.

    • I’m so glad to hear that! I’ve always, always felt sorry for kept animals, especially those in circuses and zoos. Wonder if one day zoos will go away. I would love to see that happen. In my opinion, the only animals that belong in a zoo are those that are injured or couldn’t otherwise survive on their own.

  29. bobbi duncan says

    Hi! This is such a heartwarming post, and a sad one as well because of the cruel deaths of both the babies and parent elephants. I’ve always loved elephants from seeing them for the first time at the zoo…of course, the Dumbo movie clinched it, I’m sure. I am so glad to learn more about them…super smart animals…and what can be done to help them. Thank you for this very enlightening post.

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