The elephant orphans of Kenya
Prior to joining Youth 4 African Wildlife, I had the privilege of spending five days in Nairobi, Kenya with Edwin Lusichi, head keeper of David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. For more than 15 years, Edwin has been part of the DSWT team, rescuing orphaned baby elephants that have been victimized by poaching and human-wildlife conflict, with the resolute objective of releasing them back into the wild. As babies and young calves, elephants are milk dependent and would not survive in the world without their mothers – be it animal or human.
As a self-proclaimed elephant enthusiast, I eagerly asked Edwin every question I could possibly think of regarding his interactions and personal experiences with these magnificent creatures. I became fascinated with every detail; the way elephants have such individual personalities, their strong family bonds, and their emotional depth.
One story in particular that reaffirmed my belief that elephants are truly majestic is an anecdote that paints a picture of mysticism and supernatural-like qualities. As Edwin explained it to me, with a glimmer in his eyes and sense of pride in his voice, the herd of elephants was walking along the bush towards their stables as they normally do. Suddenly the babies’ matriarch pushed her way forward and began urging the babies backwards, clearly not wanting them to move any step further.
“At first it was very strange,” Edwin said cautiously. “We could not understand why she did not want the others to move forward. That was their normal path.”
The herd continued to move back as Edwin and the other keepers observed and checked for danger ahead. Minutes later it became very clear why the matriarch did everything in her power to prevent the others from moving further; the keepers discovered a large and dangerous snake on the path the babies were heading down. The snake would have easily killed a baby, but somehow the matriarch knew to not allow her kin to move forward down the path, even though the snake was far enough away that they could not have seen danger.
Elephants are truly sentient beings, emitting auras of mysticism and grace. My experience with the elephant orphans of Kenya was awe-inspiring, invoking feelings that ignite fire in my soul. It is people like Edwin Lusichi that fuel my motivation to continue fighting for these majestic creatures.
Mary Obeyd, Y4AW intern