Blog: The Wild is the Only Place for Elephants

DSWT 2In the first of a series of guest blogs from CAPS volunteers, supporters and animal advocates around the globe, CAPS volunteer Lauren Cawley, tells us of her experience with elephants on her recent ‘trip of a lifetime’ to Kenya…

Finally, I had arrived at The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust’s nursery in Nairobi, which was a dream come true. As a lover of elephants and a supporter of the Trust, it felt surreal to step out onto the red soil of Kenya, home to approximately 38,000 wild elephants, to witness the wonderful work of the Trust in protecting these magnificent beings.

As I saw the sign for the nursery, I couldn’t believe that the elephants I had adored on social media for such a long time were just a few footsteps away. Feeling a little overwhelmed, I waited for the orphaned elephants to come back to the nursery after a day out in the bush, accompanied by their caring keepers wearing their iconic turquoise jackets. The keepers have dedicated their lives to rehabilitating elephants after they’ve experienced the deep trauma of losing their mothers or becoming separated from their families at a young age.

Everyday the elephants walk out into the bush, building up their confidence in the wild environment they were once so familiar with. Knowing that they have another chance at life, after being integrated with wild elephants and reintroduced to their natural habitat, is heart-warming.

Leaving Nairobi, I headed to Ithumba to meet the older orphans; once they are ready to leave the nursery, which can take up to 10 years depending on each individual’s development, they’re transferred to the Trust’s rehabilitation unit in Tsavo East where they can mix with the wild herds of this vast national park.

Words simply cannot describe the immense feelings of happiness and satisfaction I felt seeing the elephants in the wild. With almost 14,000 square kilometres to roam, the elephants of Tsavo East have the freedom to live out their lives as nature intended – a life that is a distant memory for captive elephants; for those born in captivity, it is a life they don’t even know exists.DSWT

And so the journey continued to Tsavo West; the neighbouring national park spanning 9,000 square kilometres. As the sunrise illuminated the sky with rich orange hues, the silhouettes of elephant families created breath-taking scenes across the savannah. Walking slowly to accommodate their young, dozens of herds welcomed the day ahead, setting off on an unrestricted, leisurely walk that would last for hours.

During the intense midday African sun, the elephants could be seen taking sanctuary in the shade, and as the sun began to set and the temperature eased, they could be seen walking in a protective line against the stunning backdrop of Kenya’s largest national park.

To see the elephants with such freedom touched my heart; it is something I’ll never forget. To see them roaming the grassy plains of Tsavo in big family units made my heart break for those held in captivity in zoos and circuses. A life in captivity prevents elephants from fulfilling their needs; their space is limited, their herd non-existent, and their habitat unnatural. They are deprived of socialising and forming close bonds with others of their kind, as they’re confined to a solitary life that’s destined to be shorter than the lives of elephants living in the wild.

Seeing the wild elephants of Tsavo, and those being cared for by the Trust, strengthened my passion to campaign against the captivity of these emotive, gentle giants.

To learn more about our campaigns to end the captivity of elephants and how you can help, visit our zoo and circus campaign pages. Thank you. 


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