Orphaned baby elephants who have never had the chance to meet their mother for the second time in their lives always know how to warm the hearts of their caregivers with warm kisses.

Orphaned baby elephants who have never had the chance to meet their mother for the second time in their lives always know how to warm the hearts of their caregivers with warm kisses.

At feeding time, it’s not just the odd pint of milk that’s needed for these hungry mouths – it’s gallons.

Every one of these elephant calves lost its parents to the poacher’s gun or snare.

Rescued from all corners of Kenya and brought to the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, 30 minutes outside the capital of Nairobi, the elephant calves are cared for with every intention of returning them to the wild.

The lucky ones: These orphan elephant cubs have been taken in by the Nairobi Elephant Nursery in Kenya. The increase in ivory poaching has left the species endangered

But this year there are more orphaned elephants than ever, because poaching has increased dramatically.

The poachers have been encouraged by the Convention for Trade in Endangered Species’ decision to allow China and Japan to buy 108 tons of ivory in South African stockpiles.

Dame Daphne Sheldrick, who runs the orphanage, believes there is a link between legal ivory sales and the number of newly-orphaned calves.

The best moment for the elephants is feeding time

Calf measures: At bedtime Kenia gets another serving of milk from her keeper

‘Every time ivory is auctioned legally, there’s a rise in poaching,’ she says.

‘We estimate that the number of elephants killed in Africa this year has risen by almost 45 per cent on last year.’ Dame Daphne, 74, has worked with her staff to protect Africa’s wildlife for over 50 years.

‘At the beginning of 2008 the total number of infant elephants that had been hand-reared through the Trust’s Nairobi Nursery was 75,’ she says.

The orphan elephants seem to crave human contact

Tusk, tusk, what a mess: A footballing calf loves it

‘However, by the end of 2008 the number of orphans saved and reared numbered over 90.

‘In addition over the years, we have lost 55 orphans to disease and shock, so around 150 orphaned elephants have passed through our hands,’ she adds.

Every elephant sleeps in a stable with one of the keepers.


Like Babar the Elephant come to life: Daphne’s grandchildren, Taru, left, and Roan have grown up with them

Dame Daphne Sheldrick, who set up the orphanage with her late husband David, above with her daughter Angela Sheldrick and her grandsons Roan Carr-Hartley, 8, (far right) and 10-year-old Taru Carr-Hartley

The elephants are fed a special formula milk every three hours day and night and are not weaned until they are three years old.

Eventually, they graduate to a ‘rehabilitation facility’ in Tsavo National Park to enable them to rejoin wild elephant herds.

The elephants all walk in a line as they return to their huts for the evening in Nairobi, Kenya

‘Gradually the orphans pluck up courage to mingle with wild herds while the keepers maintain a safe distance,’ says Daphne.

But before they get to that stage, they’ll take their jumbo milk breaks every three hours.


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