I have always loved animals, and if you were to ask me what wild animal is closest to my heart, my first answer would be the Elephant. I see them often on TV, from Dumbo when I was a child, to Animal Planet as I got older. I faintly remember a trip to Manila Zoo when I was young, and seeing an elephant in the flesh for the first and only time. Decades later, during my first ever volunteering night with an animal welfare NGO, I would be sending letters to government officials and influential people to seek their support in setting Mali, the same lone elderly elephant that I have met decades ago in Manila Zoo, free. So she may live the rest of her days comfortably.
Elephants are the largest land mammals that currently roam the earth. There are 2 species – the African elephant, and like Mali – the Asian elephant. African elephants, whose ears are wider and floppy and resemble the African continent, are larger than the Asian elephants, who have round ears.
Elephants use their tusks to lift, dig for food and water, and strip out tree barks. They use their long, versatile trunks to smell, caress their young, drink, and hold objects. Baby elephants use their trunks to hold on to their moms’ tails. Did you know that young elephants hide in the shadow of their moms so their skin won’t get burned by the sun?
There’s also something about the eyes of these magnificent creatures – so tender, almost shy, innocent, and somehow sad. The first time I noticed this was when I was in Bangkok and there was a baby elephant being paraded by a man – he adorned the baby elephant with colors and a costume – yet I felt for the baby – it was confused of the city chaos happening around it, and it did not belong there. It belonged with its mom, in an herd.
Elephants are herd animals, where their matriarch is the oldest and strongest female. There are lots of videos in YouTube showing the herds protecting one another, especially the young.
I came across the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust page in 2015 and read stories about the elephant orphans. They were left behind because their mothers were killed by poachers or during human-wildlife conflict, or they fell in wells and their herds had no choice but to leave them behind. Some orphan stories really tugged my heart, and then and there I adopted them to support the conservation and rescue efforts of DSWT.
My first adopted orphan was Roi. She was seen with her mom, alive and healthy, by a safari tourist. The next day, when the tourist came back to the same spot, they found Roi confused at the side of her dying mom. Though her herd later on whisked little Roi away, there was no other lactating elephant who could give her sufficient milk, as moms can only provide milk to one calf at a time. Roi, was later on rescued by DSWT where she was given the milk and love she needed. Now, Roi is happily integrated with the rest of her new herd, and is seen most of the time next to her bestfriend, Tusuja, another orphan elephant.
Suffice to say, Kenya is my ultimate dream destination. I hope one day to be able to visit the sanctuary and see the babies up close. For now, I do what I can to support the cause for conservation and rescue. I am writing this to spread the word and hopefully increase awareness and appreciation for the elephants. And hopefully we can serve as the voice of these peace-loving animals.