Because there’s nothing better than an Elephant

Les with Sambo in Phnom Penh

I have been fortunate enough to celebrate another year on this earth.  What I have found that thrills me in my middle years – among other things – is elephants.  I had not such familiariaty for the species until traveling in Cambodia, where I was coincidentally reading “Like Water for Elephants”.  That’s when I came across Sambo in a dawn run through the city.  There she was in all her glory, on her way to her morning bath.  Slowly pacing herself through the busy road by the river.  I couldn’t believe it – then couldn’t believe my luck to witness such an unusual (to me) sight. And such a magnificent, yet stoic creature, undertaking her morning rituals.  I was taken aback.

Later that night with local friends at dinner, I  recounted my story, only to have them say in unison, “that’s Sambo”.  After acquiring the necessary address on her – I went to visit her one morning where she resides in Phnom Penh.  I have no doubt she sensed my deep empathy and admiration for her species, for she batted her lengthy eyelashes in such a manner as my dog and faithful companion Elsa does – that of recognizing a kindred soul.  I have fantasies that I jump on her back and off we ride into the Cambodia countryside.  Just my beautiful elephant and me.


Fast forward to 2010 and I am the proud foster parent of now THREE elephants from the David Sheldrick Wildlife Foundation in Kenya- Shukuru, who is just a little thing of 1 years old and who was very nearly killed for bush meat because she got herself stuck in a hole, is now a little rockstar.  The manholes on the ageing Mzima-Mombasa pipeline have been responsible for orphaning many elephant orphans. They should not, of course, be open, but the steel covers are either stolen or cast aside so that tribesmen along the route can access the water for themselves and their cattle. They seldom bother to replace the cover, because anything that falls in brings a free bushmeat meal.  I get regular notes from her keepers, and she’s absolutely thriving. For her harrowing story, read here.


My second baby, Sities (pronounced Syteez), was only 7 weeks old when she was rescued last January.  She is suspected to be a poaching victim, although human/wildlife conflict cannot be ruled out since the Ranch where she was found has a lot of livestock and herdsmen. The Trust’s De-Snaring anti-poaching team has been sent to scour the area to confirm any evidence of possible poaching.

Sities, a beautiful female calf, responded well to the arrival of the Keepers who fed her a bottle of milk and rehydration water before loading her into their Pickup and driving her to the Voi Stockades. Once there she remained close to the Keepers following them around, until the Rescue Plane arrived from Nairobi to airlift her back to the Trust’s Nairobi Elephant Nursery.  She arrived in the Nursery on a very auspicious day – the day that CITES Cop 15 voted in favour of the elephants, prohibiting the requested sale of ivory stockpiles from both Tanzania and Zambia. In celebration of that event, the calf was named Sities, pronounced the same but spelt differently.

Our newest family member – Wasin

For my birthday this year, I have been given a new baby girl, now only a month old – named Wasin.  She was found in Samburu – a region in Kenya where we have traveled and feel a strong connection to.  Wasin was only a week old when she was rescued on the 17th October, 2010 from Namunyak Conservancy in Northern Kenya.  She was retrieved from a shallow well by Samburu elders of the area. The fate of the mother is not known for sure, but it is whispered that she could have been yet another victim of poaching in the area where Chinese Road Construction workers are operating, and apparently encouraging the poaching of elephants for ivory.

For those not familiar about the work the David Sheldrick Wildlife Foundation is doing – The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust is a small, flexible charity, established in 1977 to honor the memory of famous Naturalist, David Leslie William Sheldrick MBE, the founder Warden of Tsavo East National Park in Kenya, where he served from its inception in 1948 until his transfer to Nairobi in 1976 to head the Planning Unit of the newly created Wildlife Conservation & Management Department. David died 6 months later but his legacy of excellence and the systems he installed for the management of Tsavo and wildlife generally in Kenya, particularly in the sphere of wildlife husbandry and ethics, lives on.

For my part, its all about elephants.  I hope to foster many more, and watch them grow and recover from their traumatic beginnings.  I plan to take Cooper to Kenya this summer to work with the David Sheldrick Trust, so that he can get a first-hand experience of these gorgeous creatures and the feeling of helping them with a new life.

I urge you to foster  an elephant for a holiday gift.  Or as a baby gift – I gave a precious little man who turned one another precious little creature who turned 1, as well – that was Sities.  I take a photo of the elephant and put it into a 4 x 6 fridge magnet, to which I add the name.  Honestly, these little guys have had their mom’s poached.  Have fallen down holes.  Are in bad shape.  They are so phenomenally beautiful.  Consider fostering one or two.  You will love it!

And if that doesn’t do it for you, click here to see the most amazing baby elephant rescue.


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