Elephant Orphanage

Kila la kheri” means “Good Luck” in Swahili

After a pleasant family breakfast of leftover camping snacks and malaria pills, we all departed for the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, which serves as a haven for orphan elephants, rhinos and other animals.  We arrived just in time for the strict 11am-12pm visiting hours during which they allow visitors to watch the orphans’ feeding time.

David Sheldrick (1919-1977) was a Kenyan farmer and warden for Tsavo, Kenya’s largest national park.  David, along with his wife Daphne, dedicated their lives to studying the animals living in the reserve, as well as rescuing and rehabilitating orphan animals back into the wild community. The trust is funded entirely by private donations, and for USD$50/month, you can “adopt” an orphan, which gives you daily online journal updates, photos, and visiting privileges.

Admission: requested donation of 300Ksh minimum

The keepers first brought out a group of 10 baby elephants, ranging from 1-3 months in age.  The keepers fed the baby elephants with milk from oxymoronic giant baby bottles.  The milk is made from human milk formula as one cannot just  milk wild elephants.

Ndovu means “elephant” in Swahili

The baby elephants all wore blankets tied on their backs for warmth as the younger ones are highly susceptible to pneumonia.  Pneumonia is a very dangerous disease for elephants as it is usually not diagnosed until too late because they do not display any early symptoms  (sneezing or coughing).  By the time keepers notice liquid dripping from the elephants’ trunks, it means their lungs are already filled with liquid.  In the wild, typically the elephant herd will surround the young to keep them warm at night until they are old enough withstand the cold themselves.

After the baby elephants left, they brought out the older ones ranging 6 months to 1.5 years in age for lunchtime.  They charged in trumpeting, already displaying a natural herd mentality as the eldest female was deferred to as the leader of the elephant orphans.

The Wildlife Trust typically starts to reintroduce the orphans into the wild around 2-3 years of age, which is when they no longer need milk for sustenance, since an adopted mother would not usually provide an orphan with milk.  If an orphan can successfully join a wild herd, the herd will provide the young elephant with protection.

The keepers told us that one of the elephants had been found missing his tail and part of his ear following an attack by hyenas.  Another orphan was found raiding a farm’s crops, and no one could locate his mother and she was suspected to be a victim of poaching due to shots heard earlier.  The majority of the orphans there were casualties of illegal poaching.

We also saw a baby black rhino named Maalim who was brought out separately from the elephants as they are not naturally friends in the wild.  He had been abandoned by his mother just 2 days after birth, perhaps due to man-made disturbances to the rhinos’ established territory.

Kifaru means “rhinoceros” in Swahili

There were also adult rhinos there, one named Maxwell suffered from an eye disease that left him blind and unfortunately he would be unable to survive in the wild alone so he would stay at the orphanage permanently.

There was another adult rhino, Shidia, that had been successfully rehabilitated and sent off into the wild of Kenya National Park.  However, ever since the arrival of Maxwell, the blind rhino who lives at the trust, Shidia would occasionally stop by to visit.

We had lunch at Diamond Plaza, which resembled the food court type hawker centres in Singapore.  Tons of store owners swarmed us with menus and we would end up ordering a  multitude of dishes from every shop.

After lunch, we headed to Maasai Market to buy some souvenirs.  I was glad to have all our hustler local Kenyans with us to help haggle, as I think all the market stall owners could smell my fear and preyed upon it to rip me off.

I bought some colorful beaded jewelry, carved wooden picture frames, wooden animal figurines, and some acacia wood bowls.  Roza found some cool carved wooden bookends, and everyone bought a Tusker t-shirt which said “Baadi ya kazi… Tusker” which translates to “After work… Tusker.”

At night, we had dinner at the famous Carnivore restaurant, which is run by the same Tamarind Group of the Tamarind Dhow Mombasa dinner cruise we took earlier.  Carnivore is dubbed as “Africa’s Greatest Eating Experience.”

The restaurant serves all types of meat, including exotic game meat, which is roasted over charcoal and carved at the table.  For a fixed price, we received unlimited amounts of side dishes, soup, salad, and MEAT!

Due to the passing of stricter game laws in Kenya, the restaurant no longer serves exotic game meat such as zebra and gazelle meat.  The most exotic meats that the Nairobi restaurant served was ostrich and crocodile.  However, I heard that Johannesburg’s Carnivore, which is owned by the same Tamarind Group, still serves exotic game meat.

Following dinner, we headed to the Simba Saloon next door for drinks and to dance to the random disco and R&B music from the 1980s.  My friend Mark was in the Westlands, where a lot of popular bars are situated, and so we went to join him.  We first went to Gipsy Bar and drank some Tuskers before heading downstairs to dance.  The music at the bar was primarily trance and dance hall music, and we danced among all the stiletto-heeled malayas.  There is only so much techno music I can take, and around 3am all the Americans voted to find a bar playing a different genre of music.

We later moved the party to Blue Times, which is a posh lounge that plays hip hop, reggae, and rap music.  We heard Jamie Foxx’s “Blame It” when we walked in and we were immediately happy and danced until the bar closed around 4:30am.

Return to main menu: “Karibu Kenya”


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