The staff at Gregg International School believe that, no matter where you are in the world, one should always stop and think about why it’s important to understand what is happening in places far away from the comfort of our homes.
Gregg students did just this and now they are celebrating the adoption of Sosian, an African elephant that was orphaned far away in Nairobi, by poachers.
The children wanted to be involved in a conservation project that saved animals from starvation or being killed, and then provided care for the animals until they could be released back into the wild. The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT) did just this and therefore became the children’s chosen charity. Sosian was saved by the Wildlife Trust.
Born from one family’s passion for Kenya and its wilderness, the DSWT is today the most successful orphan-elephant rescue and rehabilitation program in the world, and one of the pioneering conservation organizations for wildlife and habitat protection in East Africa. At the heart of DSWT’s conservation activities is the Orphans’ Project, which has achieved worldwide acclaim through its hugely successful elephant and rhino rescue and rehabilitation program. The organization also rescues hippos, cheetahs, and lions.
The Orphans’ Project exists to offer hope for the future of Kenya’s threatened elephant and rhino populations as they struggle against the threat of poaching for their ivory and horn, and the loss of their habitat due to human population pressures and conflict, deforestation, and drought.
Many elephants that have been rescued will spend 8 to 10 years with DSWT, who feed and take care of the animals until they are strong enough and old enough to look after themselves. The trust relies entirely on donations to be able to provide this level of support.
The elephants develop close relationships with the humans who take care of them. It is said that elephants never forget, and these orphans remember the particular individuals who replaced their lost infant and adolescent elephant family, and will trust and love them for life.
They also turn to their human family when in need of help when grown. A few of the ex-orphans have returned to the stockades to have snares and arrows removed. Two who are now mothers of wild-born calves brought their babies back to the stockades when their milk yield failed during the long drought of 2009. By rushing down dairy and other supplements, DSWT staff managed to boost the mothers’ milk supply and save the two babies. However, such trust and love does not extend to all humans; it encompasses only specific individuals who represented the elephants’ family — the orphans will have received a different message from their wild counterparts and will learn to fear humans who are not known to them.
They also form close relationships with the other orphans that have been living at the trust’s stockade for varying periods of time. Once the older elephants have returned to the wild, it is common for them to return to the trust and take one of the orphan “juniors” off for a trial night out in the wild, providing the aspiring “graduate” with a bit of security when they would otherwise have felt insecure without human protection at night. If they do still feel daunted, then a couple of the ex-orphaned bulls will likely escort the junior back to the stockade, returning “junior” to the keeper. (Elephants, like humans, have limited night vision, and as such it is understandable that some lose their nerve, and opt to return.) This is understood and respected by the elder elephants so “to-ing and fro-ing” during the reintegration process is not uncommon.
However, the call of the wild is persistent and strong and all DSWT orphans end up leading perfectly normal lives again as part of the wild elephant community of Tsavo National Park, a protected area that is large enough to afford elephants the space they need for quality of life. — SUE SOUTHERN