Tuesday, January 1, 2013

We Adopt an Elephant

This is our new baby.  He is a 6 month old elephant named Lemoyian.  He lives with about thirty other orphaned elephants under the age of three in the David Sheldrick Elephant and Rhino orphanage nursery at the Nairobi National Park. Lemoyian is the youngest of the elephants at the Nursery and it was hard not to fall in love with this tiny little creature.  The handlers placed a blanket over his back to protect him from the sun and to keep him warm.  He was rescued after having fallen in a well and separated from his mother. He was only 4 months old when he was rescued and brought to the Orphanage where he is now thriving in his new elephant family. In this picture he is being fed a special elephant baby formula that was created by Daphne Sheldrick - before this milk dependent elephants never survived away from their mothers. Lemoyian is too young to hold up his trunk, in the wild he would lean it against his mother's body, so the handler helps him keep it up while feeding.

Even though the picture of the elephant above is a little out of focus I had to include it because of the expression of pure joy on the face of this tiny elephant.  She came charging into the viewing area where they would soon be fed with the giant bottles of elephant formula.  She shook her head and let out a happy squeal that made everyone laugh!  Each elephant got two bottles that were lined up along the rope-line just a few feet from where we were standing.  Each elephant knew just which bottles belonged to him and went straight for them upon entering. 

 The young elephants need the handlers to hold their bottles for them, but when they are a bit older they learn how to hold their own bottles - just like toddlers!  They are also messy eaters, just like toddlers.  Can you see how small their little tusks are? There was one elephant nick-named "Naughty Boy" who finished his two bottles early and then tried to bully the other elephants and handlers into giving him more milk. This all played out about two feet from where we were standing behind a loosely strung rope-line!

When the formula feeding was finished the elephants munched on the leaves of these branches that the handlers had placed around the viewing area.  Many of the elephants came up close enough for us to touch.  Our hands looked like this after petting the elephants. Their bodies feel like prickly bark on the trunk of a tree, but the skin behind their ears feels like soft silk.

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