A dark time in the creatures' history, there is a glimmer of hope. The keepers at the elephant nursery become a temporary family for the babies and many of them have been with the trust for more than 10 years, committing to the elephants well-being.
“The special relationship between the keepers and the baby elephants is very, very nice,” said Mbulu. “Because, we normally stay with them as our own children. We have to take care of them, protect them, walk them, play with them as sometimes we do with our babies.”
The nursery currently has 32 elephants as well as other animals, including one two-year old giraffe named Kiko and a blind rhino named Maxwell. There are 24 keepers total that feed the elephants, bathe them,and sometimes sleep with them in a process that lasts three years.
Elephants are not the only animals in danger of extinction. The black rhino population on the continent is down nearly 98 percent since 1960. The Sheldrick Trust has saved over 16 black rhinos from poaching in Kenya.
The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust also operates nine anti-poaching units and five mobile veterinary units in conjunction with the Kenya Wildlife Service. Every month, these units on the ground and in the air work to rescue and keep wildlife safe.
As 10 a.m. nears, the keepers get milk ready for feeding. The elephants bound towards them in small groups, waiting for their turn to drink three liters or more of milk. Fed every three hours, the keepers stick to their routine. A dedicated group of caretakers that ultimately give elephants in Kenya a chance to survive in the wild.
This project was supported by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.