Thursday, March 16, 2006

Elephant Diaries

There is good news about our baby elephant, Lualeni. She is now the mini-matriarch of the herd of baby elephants in the Nairobi nursery, run by David Sheldrick wildlife trust.

The second part of the news is that the BBC documentary, "Elephant Diaries" [view trailer] aired on Animal Planet on March 5th (Oscar awards night). It is too bad that I didn't publicize it on the blog well in advance and snatch some of the Oscar viewers. We don't have cable, so a friend graciously recorded the documentary for us. It was really great to see the story of this amazing elephant family. We also got a chance to see our baby elephant, Lualeni, on TV. YAY!

When the documentary was filmed Lualeni had just joined the crowd and was not mixing with the others just yet. Elephants are very social animals and have very strong ties to members of their herd. Lualeni's mother was killed by poachers probably in front of her eyes. She was rejected by other elephant herds and was finally rescued by David Sheldrick wildlife trust. When she joined the nursery she was a unhappy little elephant. She kept to herself during grazing and feeding and refused to interact with the other babies. After four months in the nursery though she overcame her grief and now is a very happy, playful elephant. She is now the elderly elephant in the Nairobi nursery and is kind of the mini-matriarch of the herd, looking after other baby new-comers. Here is a audio clip, with Daphne Sheldrick, who established the nursery and the trust, talking about Lualeni.

CBS 60 minutes traveled to Kenya in mid-January to do feature work on the David Sheldrick wildlife trust. Hopefully that feature too will air soon.

I am very much fond of elephants. They are amazing creatures who have a life-span similar to humans. They are social creatures much like us. They are very powerful and yet they can be very gentle creatures. They are endangered because of the constant encroachment by humans on their habitat and due to poaching for ivory. The job that people like Daphne Sheldrick and the amazing team of keepers are doing in raising orphaned baby elephants is very admirable and worth of support. The keepers try to provide the elephant babies the love and care they would have received from their herd. The babies develop a strong bond with the keepers. The trust tries to raise the elephant with the aim of returning them to the wild one day. Towards this end, it keeps them as close to the wild and as much in touch with the jungle as it can. Male elephants graduate earlier than female elephants and are quicker to move into the wild joining the wild herds. The BBC documentary features, Emily, one of the earliest female babies from the nursery, who has recently graduated and moved on into the wild.

Apart from the nursery, the trust also conducts anti-poaching and de-snaring activities and runs a nursery for baby rhino orphans and conducts a lot of conservation related and community outreach activities. Please visit the trusts website and support these wonderful creatures.

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