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How a Baby Elephant Named Malkia Changed My Life

I journeyed to Kenya for a sightseeing trip — and returned home with a baby elephant.

The way I cared about nature and my existence changed in just two weeks spent in Kenya.

On one hand, you’re awed by the untouched wonder of life and death. On the other, you’re witness to the impacts of climate change and man-made developments on ecosystems and food security.

Still, the Kenyans’ mantra is a simple and very familiar, “Hakuna Matata”, which roughly translates to ‘no worries’ in Swahili. After a fortnight stay, I returned home with more compassion, rootedness, hopefulness and most unexpectedly — a baby elephant.

Unlike South Africa, Kenya prides itself on its strong animal conservancy efforts — something that one can only understand when you’re faced with the rawness of the wild. In my journey, I found an absolute love in elephants.

One day, a herd of 30 elephants crossed our path, and it was the most majestic and surreal visual that I had ever seen. But it made me sad to know that these magnificent beings still suffer from cruel trades of ivory or living elephants for exhibition purposes. In these instances, a helpless, baby elephant often gets left behind.

Kari's adopted elephant Maikia

My adopted elephant, Malkia

“Unlike South Africa, Kenya prides itself on its strong animal conservancy efforts — something that one can only understand when you’re faced with the rawness of the wild.”

During my trip, I found out about The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT), an orphan elephant rescue and rehabilitation program. It’s hailed as one of the pioneering conservation organisations for wildlife and habitat protection in East Africa, with its shelter in Nairobi. To date, they have hand-raised over 150 infant elephants before releasing them back into the wild.

In the day, the elephants play in the Nairobi National Park, and arrive back to the shelter during public visiting hours for feeding and midday mud baths. In the evenings, foster parents are able to visit the quarters to spend time with their foster-child, feed them some supper and say goodnight.

There, I met nine-month old Malkia and her orphan friends, including rhinos and giraffes. Malkia was found next to her dying mother, who had lost her fight against the brutal dry season. In honour of her mother, a mainstay of the region of Tsavo, she was named Malkia, which means ‘queen’ in Swahili.

Tucked away in her pen, I felt Malkia’s warmth immediately when she came to greet me with her tiny trunk. After a few minutes of hand holding, she got distracted by another baby elephant, Luggard who was just waking up. Walking over, she started squealing for attention, and tried to reach over for more hay, getting her trunk stuck in the process.

I fell in love. And I decided to adopt Malkia.

Currently there are about 70 milk- and keeper-dependent orphans who need round-the-clock specialist care, proper nutrition, veterinary care and treatment, medications, and a well-constructed and maintained stockade for housing for up to 10 years. Sponsorships contribute significantly to the long-term care and future of these beautiful animals. This means that you can change an elephant’s life — and yours — today.

To scale conservancy efforts, the DSWT has now extended the fostering programme online, where anyone in the world can “adopt” an elephant or a rhino for themselves or as a loving gift. To me, it’s a perfect introduction to get involved all the way from Singapore, where we are so far removed from nature and majestic wildlife.

“The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust has hand-raised over 150 infant elephants before releasing them back into the wild.”

For a minimum of USD 50 a year, you get:

  1. A fostering certificate with a full profile and photo of your adopted orphan
  2. An interactive map of baby elephants and rhinos
  3. A monthly update and journal highlighting the progress of your orphan
  4. More opportunities to get involved as a member of the DSWT project

For more information on fostering, visit this page

 

Images courtesy of Kari Tamura

Malkia's certificates

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