photos by gerry ellis from the david sheldrick wildlife trust, a nursery and orphanage for elephants in kenya’s tsavo east national park. here, fifty five keepers are charged with being around the clock parents to an elephant. the elephants, however, are the ones who chose their caretakers; it is the keepers who must ingratiate themselves to the elephants and earn their trust.
when elephants first arrive at the orphanage they are often traumatized from having witnessed the slaughter of their mothers and family by poachers. grieving can last several months, and they often lose the will to live. but as dame daphne sheldrick, founder of the orphanage, explains, a caretaker is charged with “persuading an elephant to live when it wants to die.”
approximately 35,000 elephants are killed by humans every year. with an estimated 350,000 elephants left in the whole continent of africa, they will be gone in the wild within ten years.
cbc’s the nature of things did a program on the elephants and their caretakers. you can foster an elephant with the david sheldrick wildlife trust online here. for more on the emotional lives of elephants, as well as the david sheldrick wildlife trust and other human efforts to save them, check out these posts
Do you go back and watch yourself as the episodes air?
I do. But it’s weird. I don’t really like it. It’s very bizarre. It’s very embarrassing. I won’t watch it with [my family]. They have to sit in another room. I don’t know, it’s just very strange watching yourself on-screen, because you are your biggest critic and everything. But I think it’s also a good thing that I don’t like it, because if you’re ever satisfied with your work, then that’s the end of your career. Because surely the thing that drives you is that you’re never satisfied.