There are currently just 500,000 to 750,000 Asian and African elephants left on Earth. Tragically, this number is fast depleting, with some 100 African elephants poached each day for their tusks and meat.
With the threat of extinction looking more and more likely in our lifetime, it’s never been more crucial to protect this incredible, but highly endangered species.
Since its foundation in 1977, the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust has fostered orphaned baby elephants that have lost their herds and mothers as a result of poachers and forceful separation.
Following World Elephant Day, we chat to Edwin Lusichi, Head Keeper at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Nairobi, Kenya, about the work they do.
“I’m the happiest man on Earth because I feel like I’ve achieved what I was meant to do. After three years at the orphanage, we reintegrate the elephants into the wild – I’m very happy when we see them successfully re-joining a new herd.”
The baby elephants are often traumatised and stressed, and in need of closeness and interaction to help them overcome the distress of losing their families.
“Being naturally caring and gentle creatures, the baby elephants need to be shown affection. We have some elephants who will want to sit on your lap, to play with your hair or suck your thumb.
“The keepers sometimes stay in the same room as the elephants at night and, occasionally if a keeper oversleeps, the elephants will come to the keeper and try to touch their face with their trunk which is wet, occasionally pulling off a blanket playfully.”
In the wild elephants keep warm by staying in their herds but, when an elephant is orphaned, they are unable to sustain adequate body temperature on their own.
Every year IAG Cargo donates hundreds of airline blankets to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust each year, ensuring their baby elephants are warm, and are protected from common diseases such as pneumonia before they are reintroduced into the wild.