Something very unusual happened to me on my last safari trip. I was given a sizeable tip. It was such an unexpected sign of appreciation that I didn't quite know what to do...not many people tip the 'boss' on my safaris!
When I got over the surprise, I thought how good it would be to pass that generosity on, so I decided it would be appropriate to adopt an orphaned baby elephant at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust with it. The orphanage in Nairobi is a wonder to visit - seeing and hearing the joy of these rescued ellies as they scamper in from the forest of an evening, trunks waving and legs trundling, is such an uplifting experience. And watching their keepers feed them huge 'baby' bottles of milk and wrap them up in blankets for the night is possibly the cutest thing you'll ever see!
It's a serious business, though - many of these babies have been through horrifying experiences as their mothers have been slaughtered by poachers, and they need holistic care to help their souls heal as well as their bodies. Elephants are supremely social animals, and without 24 hour human contact to replace their lost mothers these little ones can just die. So the keepers not only stay with them in the forest by day, they also sleep in their little stables with them at night.
As I signed on the adoption line the head keeper gave me some advice:
"Meet all the little ones first" he said "and then decide which one you'd like to adopt - you'll know."
I wandered through the maze of stables, talking to the keepers about each baby, hearing their stories, learning what they like and taking some photos. I came to one little female who had no-one with her. She was restless, and fretting over her food. As I approached she flung herself towards the gate, and swung her trunk out to cover me in mud. I took it as a compliment as all the ellies here are ochre coloured from the red soil. Perhaps she was claiming me. Her trunk sniffed every inch of my camera, smearing more mud all over the lens, and trailed water all down my legs so I looked like I'd wet myself. A little elephant with a lot of attitude and a sense of humour? I knew straight away she was the one for me!
Her name is Nabulu - which means 'growing' in Swahili and she was found alone and abandoned in the Maasai Mara. Nobody knows what happened to her mum and the rest of her family, but she was starving and would never have survived alone, so the decision was taken to rescue her. Her full story is told in the video below. She will stay at the orphanage until she can be released back into the wild and find a new family.
This donation is the latest chapter of my Conservation & Community Commitment. The generous guests who tipped me have unknowingly helped to save her, and the good karma they brought with them to Kenya is still going strong - thank you!
If you would like to support the fantastic work of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust you can find out more at https://www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org