Raising Kenya's orphaned elephants

How to save an orphaned elephant
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(CNN)Besides humans, baby elephants are among the slowest animals to grow up.

"They are born nearly blind, they are totally helpless and all they can do is pretty much follow the mother and suckle", elephant scientist Cynthia Moss told CNN.
"It takes a long time for a calf to grow up. They're not mature until they're 12 or 13 years old. They still need their mother even at that point."
"And even in our studies we found that when a female dies any calf below two will also die, will not survive, but even the four to six year old sometimes dies without the mother", Moss adds.
Given this dependency, it is most heartbreaking when baby elephants are left orphaned because of drought, conflict or poaching.
The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust is one of the centers rescuing orphaned elephants in Kenya. They have saved hundreds of calves, and in addition offer veterinary help and educate local communities.
"They have to create a new family, basically. I mean it's a big disadvantage compared to being in a natural family with their mother and grandmother," Moss says.
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But at least it keeps some of these baby elephants alive.
Julius Shivegha, a keeper with the Trust for over ten years, demonstrates there's no shortage of case studies:
"Roi here is three years old, from Masaai Mara, (and) was left an orphan when her mother (was) killed by poachers," he says. "Wanjala -- she came in from Tsavao about four months ago. His mother had been killed by poachers."
But sometimes there's nothing to be done.
A four-month baby elephant found in the southeastern savannah droughts was brought to the national park Voi Airstrip. He had been found alone, exhausted and dehydrated four hours before. His mother had to abandon him as he had collapsed.
Sheldrick and his team of keepers checked the baby animal's glucose level, gave him a glucose drip and flew him to the nursery in Nairobi to be given full medical treatment.
But the baby animal didn't survive the 300 kilometer journey.
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"It was so sad that it happened instantly", Shivrega recalled. "At first, when she came in, she had that spirit, you would have read it in her face that she wanted to survive. But given that she had been found collapsed already, we don't know whether she recalled the loss of her family and this actually killed her..."
"Elephants are very strong animals, elephants are very fragile animals, and stress can kill them instantly."
"It is heartbreaking, we want to see them all survive, we want to save them all but it comes at a point where you have no otherwise and you let nature take its course."