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!

30 thoughts on “The Elephant in the Room (no, it’s not a metaphor)

  1. Awww! I love the first picture! I can’t go today, but this sure makes me want to go to the zoo!
    When my daughter was in Kindergarten her class adopted a manatee in FL. She asked and asked when we could go see it. We finally got to go to FL several years later. Yes, she still asked to go see her manatee. haha
    Do you want to go see your elephant?

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  3. By chance, is one of these three playing, my Kalama ? I can’t really tell myself, but I adopted her Nov. 09, for my daughter as a Christmas present, and in honor of my tour guide, David Kalama, who took me there.
    Such a blessing… Thanks for your work.
    Love and peace, Corinne

  4. This is so amazing and up my alley! When I make it to Africa I will most definitely spend some time here and make a contribution! What an inspirational place! Thank you so much for sharing! 🙂


  5. You have officially made my blog roll at the #1 spot, if there is such a thing. Never mind you are the only one on it thus far. Seriously, a blog where I get to live vicariously through someone’s else’s good deeds gets me immediately on board, and the dry-humor doesn’t hurt much either. Love the blog!

  6. Thank you so much for writing about the Sheldrick Trust. As an artist, a former resident of Africa, and current lover of all things African I have to say the Sheldrick organization is a global treasure to behold. I have been to the park, and I have been a supporter of the work of the Trust and it is my hope that many people will come to appreciate the many gifts that the Sheldrick folks have given to the world.

    Not only have they saved many elephants (or “oliphaunts” as us Tolkien fans like to say) but they have also been instrumental in paving the way for ending poverty in east Africa.

    Three cheers for the Sheldrick foundation — HIP, HIP!!!!

    Much love and peace to all,

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  8. I saw your picture on the wordpress home page and had to click. I KNEW it was David Sheldrick Wildlife Foundation. I had the amazing opportunity to go visit the foundation in Kenya. It was a once in a life time experience. Elephants are incredible creatures. It’s not a hoax or a scam, these handlers live with the babies and help get reintroduced into the wild. Amazing! Great post!

  9. A picture can speak a thousand words. When I logged onto wordpress today this was “freshly pressed”. The image at the top I had just seen, very recently.

    I just bought my textbooks for the semester. The link above is to one of them. The cover contains this exact image. I think that’s wild. It’s great to now know where it comes from.

    Thanks for the story.

  10. Over the years, we’ve adopted dogs, cats, and other shelter animals, but the only unique adoption was that of a shark for my stepson’s birthday (he loved it, by the way!). It seems only natural, then, for us to adopt a baby elephant or two.

    Thanks for not just sharing this inspiring story, but for posting those incredible photos! You can count on us to do our part!

  11. What a lovely way to honor Judith! And a great way to spend a year. Best wishes for this project and all the good attention it will bring to worthy causes. A bright spot in 2010!

  12. I visited and adopted Sujata last September, her adoption is the best gift i have ever given -is also the best gift i have ever gotten!!

    I love checking on her updates and receiving current pictures of her.
    The David Sheldrick WildlifeTrust is simply remarkable and the work they do is world changing. Thank you for acknowledging them here.

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