NAIROBI, Kenya – A world-renowned organization that dedicates its efforts to rescuing and rehabilitating orphaned elephants is making a push for donors to adopt one of the massive mammals for Valentine’s Day.
Founded in 1977, the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust operates a nursery at Nairobi National Park in eastern Africa, where orphaned elephants and other large animals are cared for and rehabilitated before returning to the wild.
The group says they have seen an increase in orphaned elephants and other large animals across the continent because of climate extremes and the effects of humans.
Employees at the non-profit say longer and more severe droughts are one of the many causes of elephants either becoming separated from their packs or having the elders in the group die off, leaving behind the young to fend for themselves.
"This year alone, we had over 20 baby elephants orphaned and in need of rescue in the span of just a few weeks," spokesperson Melissa Sciacca said.
Sciacca said severe droughts lead to a lack of fresh water and a need for nutritional food, as what is currently being experienced in the Horn of Africa.
The United Nations declared the current drought the worst since 1981, destroying crops and leading to many deaths of animals.
On the opposite spectrum of the weather extremes, the eastern part of the continent recently was impacted by tropical cyclone Batsirai.
The cyclone produced much-needed rainfall but created a path of destruction.
Sciacca said winds were strong enough to damage the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust’s aircraft; however, areas of the reserve only sustained minor damage.
Despite Mother Nature’s seemingly endless threats to the endangered animals, human impacts are reported to be on the decline.
"Poaching is also still a threat, although due to our presence on the reserve, we have seen those numbers decline significantly in recent years," Sciacca said.
Despite efforts to help conserve the population, the World Wildlife Fund estimates there are just over 400,000 elephants left in Africa.
The Sheldrick Wildlife Trust has over 100 animals available to choose from as part of the adoption program.
To adopt an elephant, visit www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org.