My children wanted a puppy for Christmas, but I think I went one better and got them a baby elephant instead. I visited the Sheldrick Trust Elephant Orphanage in Nairobi recently and adopted a little chap called Barsilinga. His mother had been shot by poachers and injured to the extent that he could no longer feed. Baby elephants rely exclusively on their mothers' milk for the first two years of their lives. If they lose their mothers for whatever reason it usually means the end for them as well. Barsilinga was just two weeks old when his mother was taken out of her misery and put to rest. He was then bundled into a truck, and later put on a plane and flown to the Sheldrick Trust Orphanage in Nairobi.
Despite being the youngest little guy at the orphanage, he's doing great. Getting all the love and attention he needs from his fellow playmates and keepers. They feed him infant formula in giant bottles every three hours around the clock. They make sure he's warm with blankets, and sleep in his stall every night to keep him company and help him sleep. Elephants, even little ones, have excellent memories. They arrive at the Orphanage traumatized by seeing their mothers killed in front of them. Keepers cuddle up and make them feel safe at night. It's the best $50 I've spent this year knowing he'll keep getting excellent care and in a few years will have the opportunity to return to the bush and resume his life in the wild.
Image of Barsilinga -- © Anouk Zijlma