April 26, 2013

Of Baby Elephants

I have a baby elephant.  Well, she's not really MY baby elephant, but I do "support" her through life by sending my annual donations in her name.  The strains of "Baby Mine" from Disney's Dumbo are playing softly in the background right now.  Actually, I lie, right now Pandora has chosen NIN's "Closer" - HA! I'm not even going to bother going to that ironic place.

ANYWAY...back to my baby elephant...

Her name is Sities, and she lives in Nairobi at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.  If you've never heard of this incredible organization, do yourself a favour and Google them, or click on the link above.  These guys are amazing.  They rescue orphaned baby elephants who have been separated from their mothers too young and would otherwise die in the wild.  The story of how Dame Daphne Sheldrick figured out the formula for elephants milk is worth a read all on its own, but every week I get a newsletter from the Foundation, chock full of stories about new rescues, updates on the current eles (elephants), and information about the various Foundation locations and all their giant, and sometimes not-so-giant, grey residents.

The email this week read "Sities Graduates to Ithumba" in the subject header, so I had to click on it immediately.  And sure enough, my wee babe has made a big move!  She has been doing so well in her development at the constant-care nursery that they decided to move her and 2 other elephants to essentially a larger play pen.  At Ithumba, the elephants are re-introduced to wild herds and are allowed to make new families and friends while still under supervision from the keepers.  So for the next few months (to possibly years), Sities will be slowly introduced into a hopefully long-term relationship with a new family.  It's an elephant adoption!  I have adopted her from a loving person and monetary standpoint.  But there is only so much I can do for her as a human.  Now she needs to be adopted by her elephant family and I will continue to follow her journey as she attempts to do so.

In a way my heart is heavy.  No one ever wants to see their babies grow up and move on.  But chances are that Sities will outlive me, and one day she will have her own babies, and her own herd, and I am so hopeful that the re-naturalization process for her is an easy one and that she is accepted into her new peer group and continues to grow and flourish as she has in the orphanage.

When I was in Nairobi, I missed out on my chance to meet Sities by mere hours.  I had traveled there with my brother and cousins, but was leaving on the second leg of my trip to join a friend in Istanbul while the rest of my crew stayed in Nairobi for an additional 2 days.  I had done so much raving about Sheldrick though, and had adopted Sities months earlier in hopes that I would meet her when I was there, that they went anyway and made sure to document the trip for me.  

A picture of Sities' pen door
Every day during certain hours, tourists are allowed into the orphanage to meet the baby elephants and watch them play.  My brother sent back reports that I had a "bad, little elephant" since when the visitors all went to see the eles playing in the mud pit, my little Sities decided that the people looked more fun and charged at the group, making a woman drop her camera in the mid pit.  I honestly had to laugh.  That definitely sounds like "my kid."

Playing in the Mud Pit!

Not a month after I got home from that trip, my brother emailed me excitedly.  He had just watched the Canadian television show called "The Nature of Things with David Suzuki" and they were featuring a program called "For The Love Of Elephants" featuring the documented rescue of Sities!  I had no idea when I adopted her that her story had been filmed.  It is one of the most beautiful and moving documentaries that I have seen and I have watched it countless times since it originally aired.  Unfortunately, it isn't available in the US, so I will try to post the video here so that you can see it if you are interested.  But the best news about all of this, is that the film crews have continued to follow Sities' progress and her transfer to Ithumba is being made into the second part of the documentary!  I can't wait to see it.  Here is the video of her transfer though that is posted on the Trust's youTube channel.  Oh man, if you're an elephant lover like I am, a) you need to know about these guys, and b) there's stuff to keep you entertained here for DAYS.

If you are interested in adopting an elephant yourself or would like more information about Sheldrick, please do check out their website, Facebook page, and youTube channel.

"From your head to your toes
You're not much, goodness knows
But you're so precious to me
Cute as can be, baby of mine"

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