Up Close with the Elephants in Nairobi

Many safaris start or finish in Nairobi. Perhaps you’re planning a day to get over jetlag or find yourself with a few free hours before your flight home. If this is the case you’d be hard-pressed to find a more worthwhile place to visit than the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust on the edge of the Nairobi National Park. Operating in Kenya since 1977, DSWT have developed the most successful orphan-elephant rescue and rehabilitation program in the world and one of our greatest pleasures is going to see these awesome animals up close at the Nairobi Sheldrick nursery.

Here you get the opportunity to get up close and observe the wonderful way their keepers rear and nurture these beautiful, vulnerable calves back to health both physically and emotionally.

At the orphanage in Nairobi, we have often listened to keepers tell each baby elephant’s story of tragedy that brought them to the orphanage. This one fell down a dry well and was so dehydrated when she was rescued. That one over there watched her entire family being killed by poachers and was found vigilantly standing beside her mother’s body. This little one here is still so fragile she wears a blanket to keep her warm even though it’s 80ºF outside. Each story is as heartbreaking as the next. However, for the elephants that are found, there is a happy ending. They never forget the caregivers that saved their lives and we will never forget the close experiences we have shared with these orphaned elephants.

Poachers kill hundreds of adult African elephants each year in order to fuel the lucrative, illegal ivory trade. As a result their offspring—who depend on their mother’s milk for the first two years of life—are often left vulnerable in the wild. The Sheldrick Trust has been rescuing these tiny distressed elephants for over the last 40 years. Without their help, these calves would have perished. There’s a unique program whereby individuals can help support this wonderful organisation through adopting an elephant and can spend time with the calf in person at the Nairobi National Park where they are raised.

If you want to get a really up close personal encounter with these wonderful animals and also contribute to the sustainability of the project then why not enroll with The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust’s Elephant Foster Parent Program . Here for a small fee you can ‘foster’ one of the orphans in the nursery. The hardest part is to choose your own adopted elephant among the available orphans since all the stories and pictures will touch your heart. After finding the perfect match, just fill your details online and pay a yearly fostering fee (50$ minimum). You will receive a fostering certificate via email with further information and images of your adopted elephant, including a map indicating the place from where the orphaned elephant was rescued. The Trust will send you monthly news and photos on your adopted elephant and on their website, you can also read the daily diary of your elephant’s Keeper.

There are 3 visiting time slots each day and we recommend planning ahead to ensure you get to spend time with the orphans:

  • 11am: Feeding time and a mud bath open to the public (entry donation $5pp)
  • 3pm: A feeding time and mud bath which is private for one group of visitors only where you also get to interact with the orphans (donation $600-8—depending on group size)
  • 5pm: Feeding and bedtime at the stockade, where up to 40 foster parents get to spend time with the orphans