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The orphanage
The orphanage
Feeding time
Play time

Kenya elephant orphanage

Thursday, November 10, 2005

David Sheldrick MBE was the founder warden of Tsavo East National Park, where he served from its inception in 1948. In 1976 he was transferred to Nairobi to head the Planning Unit of the Wildlife Conservation and Management Department. After his death, his work was carried on by his widow, Dr Daphne Sheldrick.

The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust is a small charity. It has US charitable status, enhancing its corporate funding capability under the guidance of the US-based Friends of the Trust, all of whom work on a voluntary basis.

Daphne Sheldrick was the first person in the world to hand-rear newborn, fully milk-dependent African elephant orphans. (They drink more than 20 litres a day!) Trial and error took 28 years but by 2004, 55 calves had been hand-reared and saved, two from day of birth.

The park is too small to sustain adult elephants, but they take in orphaned babies from all over Kenya. There has been a rise in ivory poaching and most babies' parents have been killed by hunters. Some have just been accidentally separated from their mothers. The babies are raised with the intention of gradually integrating them into the wild.

Obviously they are extremely traumatised for the first few days and are lavished with attention. They need food and shade, usually provided by their mothers, and walks in the park.

The age of the elephants can vary from newborn up to three years. Each is assigned its own keeper who acts as a surrogate mother and stays with the baby until it is old enough and sufficiently confident to be transferred to Tsavo Game Park for the final development before being released.

Visitors are welcome between 11am and noon every day. A keeper gives a talk about the beautiful animals, where they came from and how they are progressing. As groups are usually small, you can get really close to the babies as they feed and play. The park also takes in baby rhinos in a similar predicament, so if you are lucky you will have the chance to see one or two of those.

Nairobi's Safari Park Hotel is set on 25 hectares of gardens, with one of Africa's largest pools and an inland beach. There are two floodlit tennis courts, two squash courts and horseriding lessons are available.

Nine bungalow-style buildings have a total of 204 rooms and one presidential suite. Rooms are spacious with carved, four-poster beds and balconies overlooking the beautiful gardens.

When the sun goes down, the Cat's Club with the athletic Safari Cats and Piano Bar come to life. There is also the King Solomon's Mines casino with 500 square metres of slot machines!

The hotel has five restaurants. Nyama Choma Ranch serves roast game and domestic meat, La Piazzetta is Italian-style, Café Kigwa serves continental cuisine, Winners Pavillion is Chinese and Chiyo is Japanese.

There is a free bus shuttle to and from the city centre just 15 minutes away.


Nairobi, capital of Kenya in east Africa.


Thirteen-day tours of the Rift Valley start at $1560 per person and rooms at the Safari Park Hotel start at $168 per person per night twin share. You can sponsor a baby elephant for just $US50 a year. All of this can be arranged through Kumuka Worldwide.

South African Airways has return airfares to Nairobi, on sale and for travel until November 30, 2005. Taxes are included and conditions apply.

Fares are $2295 ex Perth, $2407 ex Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide.
Please note that the prices listed are valid at the time of filming.

More information

Kumuka Worldwide
Level 4, 46-48 York Street
Sydney 2000
Ph: 1300 667 277
Ph: 02 9279 0491
Fax: 02 9279 0492

It is recommended travellers to Kenya see their doctor at least six weeks before departure as specific vaccinations are recommended. Other health precautions and preventions may also be recommended and are best discussed with your doctor.

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