Nairobi Elephant Orphanage 2011

    • Ellies follow their keepers
    • Calves are milk-dependent for three years
    • Sand bath
    • Horseplay
    • Rolling in the mud
    • My bottle!
  • “The nursery is a hub of activity from dawn to dusk. Just before eleven, I hear the wheelbarrows approaching as the keepers bring loads of large bottles of milk and carefully place them at separated intervals on the ground. As soon as the keepers bring the milk, a palpable sense of excitement sets the crowd talking, the children chattering happily as they wait expectantly for the elephants to appear from the nearby forest. Their patience is rewarded as the nursery elephants come running from forest cover closely followed by their keepers.

    “Each elephant homes in on its particular spot, knowing exactly which bottle is his or hers. Some hold the bottle themselves, curling their trunk around it and tipping it up until it is drained, downing the contents greedily before waiting for the keeper to hand them another.

    “Once the milk has been consumed, the orphans themselves decide whether or not the day is warm enough to merit a cooling mud bath. If it is, they get down to play in the mud, rolling around, climbing on each other, tossing their trunks in the air, and then running around to play football with the keepers.

    “Baby elephants clearly enjoy an audience, never failing to respond to the buzz in the crowd, kicking the ball with front and back feet and running after it with outspread ears.”

    Extract from An African Love Song: Love, Life and Elephants by Daphne Sheldrick. Penguin, 2012.