Edwin and the Elephants | World Elephant Day

baby elephant at DSWT

Adorable baby elephant

World Elephant Day!

Today is World Elephant Day!   Update! Thanks to your support of Triple T Studios, today, August 12, 2019, The Tiniest Tiger community is fostering  four elephants.  Lentili  and Lasayan  have graduated to the Voi Reintegration Unit.  Jotto  has graduated to the Ithumba Reintegration Unit and Sattao is at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust’s Nairobi Nursery.

This is the story of my visit to the Elephant Orphanage, why I love DSWT and why I hope you will too.

My Visit to The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

I had the pleasure of meeting Edwin Lusichi when I  visited The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Nairobi, Kenya.  Even though we only exchanged a few words, I felt honored to shake his hand, look into his eyes, and thank him from the bottom of my heart, for the work  he does saving orphaned  elephants.

The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust is the most successful baby elephant orphanage in the world and is devoted to rescuing and rehabilitating baby elephants from all over Kenya that have been orphaned due to poaching or human-wildlife conflict.  The nursery  is located along the northern rim of Kenya’s Nairobi National Park. A short drive from the Nairobi Hilton where I was staying prior to meeting up with the rest of my group to head into the field to study with the Maasai.

Baby elephant stall

Nursery Stable

Upon arrival at the elephant orphanage, I was surprised, yet I am not sure why,  to find such a big crowd of visitors.  Walking the path to the viewing area we passed by the nursery stables which reminded me more of a dormitory than a stable.  Each baby elephant sleeps with a different keeper every night so that neither the elephant nor the keeper get too attached.  The young elephants are vulnerable and require round the clock care.  The dedication required of the keepers takes a special type of person willing to give completely of themselves to experience great joy when a baby grows into a healthy juvenile  as well as great sorrow when a baby does not survive despite all of their efforts.

The Baby Elephants Arrive

baby elephants arrive

The baby elephants arrive

The day of my visit, there were 12 baby elephants living at the orphanage.  We had arrived just in time to see a parade of 6  small elephants  entering the viewing area for their feeding.  Edwin, the head baby elephant keeper, was explaining to the crowd the history of the elephant orphanage, and how Daphne Sheldrick worked tirelessly by trial and error to develop a formula that would enable the baby elephants to survive without their mother’s milk.

Edwin, the Head Baby Elephant Keeper

Edwin Lusichi

Edwin Lusichi, the Head Baby Elephant Keeper

Edwin also made an impassioned plea for elephant conservation. His calm manner and voice were nearly overshadowed  by the ruckus of the crowd jockeying for the best angle to catch photographs of the adorable elephants.

I overheard all kinds of conversations about school, friends, clothing styles, what was for lunch, but I didn’t hear anyone discussing elephant conservation. I didn’t hear or witness any of the teenagers  react with horror that one elephant is killed for its tusks every 15 minutes often leaving a defenseless orphan that would surely perish if not for the dedicated souls at The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.

baby elephants at DSWT

It felt bittersweet listening to Edwin. Sad that most of the visitors weren’t listening to his plea and that these poor elephants lost their mothers, but happy the little ones were being cared for until their release back into the wild.

baby elephants drinking water

I heard Edwin say he was studying Theology and on his way to becoming a priest when he took a departure from God’s work and  ended up becoming  a full time elephant keeper.

As we were leaving, I got to shake Edwin’s hand and tell him, thank you.  I told him  perhaps he had not taken a departure at all  from God’s work but was redirected to care for these magnificent beings. He looked me right in the eyes and said, “That is what I believe too.”

elephants single file

Saying goodbye to the baby elephants and Edwin

I think this video captures the heart of the elephant orphan’s project.

Thank you for caring for all animals big and small.

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  1. Shadow Dance Ranch Kittehs says

    Thank you for sharing this with us. We are glad to know that there is such a wonderful, caring place and wonderful, caring people like Edwin and the other caretakers to help these beautiful young elephants grow to adulthood. It is sad to think that the people there were only concerned with taking pictures and not listening to the plea given by Edwin to help save these beautiful creatures. Also, it angers us to think of people killing these and all the other beautiful animals just for their own egos. Edwin and the others are definitely doing God’s work, for which we are very thankful. xoxoxo Dancer and the SDR Clan

  2. Dash Kitten in NZ says

    It angers me, the arrogance and shallowness of such people. Edwin was so lucky he has found his path and thanks to him elephants will be saved – I doubt many of the ‘audience’ hr addressed would be so fortunate. Imagine being in Africa, seeing elephants – such a privilege and an honour and they just chatter.

    • Sometimes I think it is my age and I just don’t understand the mindset of the next generation. I sound like one of those old timers when I say when I was that age…but it is the truth. We were taught to respect and listen when someone was speaking. Sadly, this seems all but lost these days. Thank you for reading about Edwin and the Elephants.

  3. What an amazing place! And a little sad that Edwin’s plea didn’t get the attention it deserved.

    • Thank you for reading this post. It was sad as I listened to Edwin and most of the crowd didn’t seem to care what he had to say. The number to remember is that 1 elephant is killed every 15 minutes. We need to end elephant poaching now.

  4. da tabbies o trout towne says

    Joanne, what an awesome post and video as well, I loved the scenes where everyone woke up, and set about to greet the new day. How fortunate to be able to visit, as well as hear Edwin ~ Thanx for sharing ! ?

    • Thank you for reading this post. The elephant orphanage is an amazing place with dedicated people. I love the video too and it always brings tears to my eyes. So many good people doing good work sometimes it is easy to forget when most of the news we hear is negative.


  1. […] A lot more, it seems, than people do to each other. Our colleagues at The Tiniest Tiger posted a lovely article for World Elephant Day where they reported from The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. One thing that […]