“Every three hours, you feel a trunk reach up and pull your blankets off!”
Due to ivory poaching and habitat loss, the African elephant is expected to go extinct within 10 years. To prevent this travesty from occurring, activists at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT), located in Kenya, Africa, have devoted themselves to offering the best care to orphaned baby elephants.
As The Dodo reports, orphaned baby elephants who recently lost their families are paired with keepers who spend both day and night by their sides. Because the creatures are extremely empathetic and emotional, they require a constant companion/caretaker to thrive. In fact, lonely orphaned elephants have been known to pass away regardless if they have suitable shelter, food, and water.
Keepers tuck the elephants in at night and sleep nearby so they can wake up in time for feedings. Said one keeper, who is the father of a 4-year-old and a 15-year-old, “It feels the same to me as having my own babies in the same room. It felt very similar as to when they were babies, waking up at all hours to feed and change them.”
Another keeper shared similar sentiments, relaying that caring for a baby elephant is similar to caring for a human infant.
“The elephant babies call out in the night, especially the very young ones,” the keeper said. “The young ones are very restless as well, just like human babies, and wake up often. Sometimes they are crying for milk — you have to wake up for them just like a mother with a newborn baby.”
Part of a keeper’s duty is to ensure the elephant babies are covered with blankets. A noticeable sign of a baby wanting milk is when the keep loses theirs. “Every three hours, you feel a trunk reach up and pull your blankets off!” one said.
“When the keepers used to sleep on a mattress on the floor, a few years ago now, the elephant would pull the blanket off the keeper to wake them up for milk, and touch their face with a wet trunk,” another keeper added.
Those who have been raising elephants for years tend to automatically wake up at 3-hour intervals. One keeper reflected, “It’s like their minds are set to wake up every three hours.” One of the perks of watching over baby elephants is getting to hear them snore. Said one keeper, “They trumpet and stay fast asleep, and kick their legs while they dream, too.”
Of course, the elephants can also get gassy, as well. The smell is… something you get used to. “Back when we used to sleep on a mattress on the hay, one elephant very nearly dropped dung on my face as I was sleeping,” one keeper recalled. “I woke up and it was right in front of me!”
The keepers make sure to keep the elephants close, however — no matter what. The Dodo reports, “In the wild, a baby elephant is never more than a few feet away from his mother. The keepers believe that staying with the babies through the night actually helps the vulnerable babies stay strong.” According to one keeper, being close “makes the babies feel very secure.”
“You are like a mother to them and being there enables them to sleep very comfortably. When they sleep comfortably it allows them to grow healthily,” he added.
Sometimes, babies are lost. And when that happens, it’s absolutely heartbreaking to the keepers. “Sometimes we do lose babies, and when this happens it is often at night and not during the day,” one keeper said. “Maybe they have been sick or they have arrived in bad condition and it is too late to save them … In the end we want them all to survive.”
Please donate to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT) to further the work of these brave and dutiful activists.
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