The Elephant in the Room (no, it’s not a metaphor)

Orphan and keeper at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, photo copyrighted by the DSWT.

Okay, here’s one you can’t resist.

Baby. Elephant. Orphans.

Tsavo ...this is elephant country.

Still not feeling it? Go to the website and take a look at the photos of the African caretakers sleeping in the stalls beside the little babies so they feel safe and secure. Or try to resist the story of the sunburned little guy they found dehydrated and starving, lingering by his mom’s body that had been harvested by poachers for her tusks. Grab your hanky and your checkbook!

The babies are hand-raised until they are almost 10 years old and ready to return to the wild.

The David Sheldrick WildlifeTrust was started by Dame Daphne Sheldrick, the widow of the renowned naturalist, wildlife ethicist, and first warden of Kenya’s giant Tsavo National Park. For over 25 years, from 1955 until 1976, Daphne and David worked to transform 8,069 square miles of inhospitable arid land (the size of Michigan) into what today is Kenya’s largest and most famous National Park. They passionately believed that wildlife and wilderness were not to be guarded simply for their own sake, but also as a well-spring for our spiritual refreshment and awe.

After David’s death, Daphne became the first person in the world to successfully hand-rear newborn fully milk-dependent African Elephant orphans, an effort that spanned 28 years of trial and error. In David’s honor, she established the National Park Elephant and Rhino Nursery in Nairobi as well as two elephant rehab centers in Tsavo –and all the orphans are eventually reintegrated into the wild in Tsavo. To date, the Trust has saved over 82 baby elephant calves (as well as black rhinos, but they aren’t as cute) – and the foundation has worked tirelessly to promote conservation, education and community service in Africa.

A mere $50 lets you “adopt” a baby elephant, and in return you’ll get the most entertaining newsletter I’ve ever read (and I don’t even particularly like animals!) The missive includes riveting stories of rescue, nail-biting updates on the health of struggling infants, beautiful profiles of the keepers, and moving stories about adolescents released into the wild. It’s serious drama … and guaranteed to make you feel a whole lot better than reading your investment updates, I promise.

Judith blowing into the baby's trunk, which allows the elephant to remember you for life.

My beautiful friend and insane animal lover Judith (whose birthday is TODAY!) has been to the nursery in Africa several times and she “gave” me an orphan for Christmas one year.  It was one of my favorite presents ever (besides a massage). It also makes the perfect gift for kids – offering effortless “teaching moments” in geography, history, ecology, environmentalism, colonialism, economics and compassion. Kind of like Grand Theft Auto, right?

My $100 contribution for the day goes to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, in honor of Judith and the amazing, incredible Dame Daphne.

Don’t forget to join me in contributing!