Nobody gives hugs like grandma — especially when the hugs are bringing life to orphan elephants that would otherwise die without their mama in the wake of poaching tragedies.
This explains why the elephants at Kenya’s Nairobi National Park line up for love from 80-year-old Dr. Dame Daphne Sheldrick. A pioneer of elephant care, Dr. Sheldrick presides over one of the world’s most successful wildlife organizations.
With her in-depth knowledge of animal physiology and behavior, the Kenyan-born savior of both elephants and rhinos has rescued and rehabilitated orphan strays — and other wildlife — for more than 50 years.
Because an elephant is milk-dependent until the age of three and without it will perish on its own, Dame Daphne persisted through many trials in order to perfect her own milk formula.
She learned her skills not in a university, but working alongside her husband David, Founding Warden of Tsavo East National Park. After his death in 1977, she founded The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust as a tribute, and today the Trust has more than 90 orphaned elephants reliant on its care until they ultimately will be returned to the wild. Many of these are babies and have been without their families since they were days old.
Sheldrick has authored a book, Love, Life, and Elephants: An African Love Story, where she shares her belief that elephants are just like us, because of their caring nature, loyalty to family, and fierce rage that will exert itself whenever a family member is threatened.
This Dame is fierce too, especially when it comes to poaching. “A world without elephants is hard to comprehend,” Sheldrick told a British newspaper. “But it is a real possibility.”
Many people share a devotion to the species’ survival including Kristin Davis (Sex and the City) whose documentary film, “Gardeners of Eden,” highlights the poaching crisis from a front-line perspective, including the dangerous risks for those working to save them.
Elephants’ roots on this planet go back some 50 million years and Dame Daphne, with the help of her daughter Angela, who now operates the Trust, are ensuring the majestic animals might last a little longer.
Experience the recent rescue of an orphan elephant from January 25, 2015, in the moving video below, posted on the organization’s YouTube channel.
“Spotted alone and extremely thin, it is a mystery why Siangiki was abandoned and what happened to her herd on the plains of South West Kenya. Without milk, this young elephant would not have survived.”
For $50 a year, you can foster an orphan: Learn more at their website.