A visit to the Sheldrick elephant orphanage makes a great half day out in Nairobi, a super short break destination from Dubai. The orphanage is located in the scenic and very green Karen area of Nairobi and the best time to visit is between 11 and 12 in the morning to catch feeding time and the organized talks. The purpose of the orphanage is to rescue and rehabilitate orphaned elephants and eventually return them to their natural habitat in the wild. Rescued from what you may wonder, one baby elephant became separated from it’s mother and wandered into a settlement where it was hacked on the head with a machete, another fell down a well and cried till it was heard and so on.
When they first arrive in a traumatized state they are wrapped in blankets to keep them warm as they are susceptible to pneumonia as they don’t get the natural heat from other elephants if they were in a herd. On the day we visited we saw two groups of elephants, 14 in total, aged between 2 months and 18 months. All the orphans are kept in the centre until they are at least 2 years old, then they are taken into Tsavo East forest (the largest reserve in Kenya)where they are carefully and closely monitored by their keepers for up to 5 years until they are fully accepted and integrated into their herd.
Daphne Sheldrick, the founder and owner of the orphanage researched long and hard into what would comprise the best food for the baby elephants and eventually found that a vegetable based, low fat baby formula milk similar to SMA Gold for human babies made the optimal mix. This is what the elephants are currently fed on! We witnessed the older elephants quickly guzzle down 12 pints of milk in just a few seconds!
The spectacle of watching the elephants frolic in the mud, play with each other and their keepers and hearing the talks is a fascinating and special experience completely off the beaten track despite it being an extremely popular outing.