By Joe McFarlane
A herd of rescued orphan infant African Elephants of all ages guzzle on giant milk bottles like big babies.
Human babies and Elephants may have a lot of differences, but one thing they certainly have in common is their love for slurping down some nutritious milk.
Looking more like overgrown comical movie props than actual milk bottles, the herd of elephants down their favourite tipple at the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Kenya.
Once finished, some Elephants perform their own version of the mic drop, as they nonchalantly let the bottle fall from their mouth so their keepers have to pick up the empty bottles from the ground as the Elephants casually strut away.
Working across Kenya, the Trust’s projects include anti-poaching, safe guarding the natural environment, addressing animal welfare issues and rescuing and hand rearing 97 milk dependent orphaned Elephants.
The milk that the Elephants are reared on is a specialist formula of milk that includes human breast milk powder which is fortified with additional, nutritious ingredients, which allows the Elephants to grow up strong and healthy.
Rob Brandford, Executive Director of the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust stated: “Our keepers take a highly choreographed approach to feeding time, especially with certain little milk fiends, keeping them on their toes.
“Every orphan approaches feeding time with their own special flair.
“While many opt to hold their own bottles, some prefer to raise their trunks high in the air and let the keepers do all the hard work.
“Some of our elephants have an insatiable thirst for the milk and have even become a little devious in their quest for more.
“It’s not unknown for orphans to try and sneak back for an extra bottle but luckily the keepers were wise to such wiles.
“As our late and great founder Dame Daphne Sheldrick DBE often said, ‘elephants are just like us and, in many ways, better than us’.”
And the herd absolutely love their milk feeds, with everyone eagerly gulping down the special formula.
Rob said: “From our unique position as ‘surrogate mothers’ to orphaned elephants, we are able to witness their incredible powers of forgiveness, their caring nature and their ability to welcome complete strangers into their midst.
“They embrace and shower love on any newly rescued calves that come to our Nursery.
“In fact, every day, they teach is about compassion, togetherness and love.
“This formula was developed by Dame Daphne who was the first person to hand-raise a milk dependent orphaned elephant.
“Without it, the elephants would not survive.
“The orphaned elephants drink two bottles of milk every three hours which meets their nutritional needs. That’s around 36 pints of specialist formula milk a day”
“As they get older their diet is increasingly made up of roots, shoots and leaves and from the age of between five and seven we slowly begin the weaning process.”
All orphans are rescued by the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust with the ultimate aim of reintegrating them back into wild populations in protected areas when grown. To date, the charity has returned 144 orphaned elephants back to a life in the wild.