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Magnum the Black Rhino - David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Elephant Orphanage
September 03 , 2007

Donna's Day Out

Beginning to feel like a lion trapped in a cage, it was with much eagerness that I took the last seat on one of Wildebeest Travel's Nairobi Day Trips. I must admit I was apprehensive, we have sighted and been close to many animals on safari, yet I was not disappointed and thoroughly enjoyed every minute of the day trip!

Our first stop was the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust - Elephant Orphanage. Alan, our guide for the day, made sure we arrived early and in prime position for the viewing. Whilst waiting for the elephants, there were warthogs running around and rolling in the mud and we were treated to a short viewing of Magnum, who is now independent of his nursery keepers and established amongst the wild rhino community of Nairobi National Park. He is still a young Black Rhino bull and at times returns to the orphanage for reassurance. To prevent any accidents, as Magnum is classed as a wild animal, he was quietly manoeuvred to a pen whilst the elephants were on display.

There are two lots of elephant orphans which you can see and sponsor. The first are less than 12 months old (three in total) and the second group consists of five elephants which are almost ready for reintroduction to the Tsavo National Park. I found the elephants to be quite amusing - rolling in the mud, stepping on their own trunks, climbing over and sitting on each other. For such big animals, I was surprised how nimble they were and laughed at the poses they struck. Water and mud flying in every direction - they just could not get enough mud and dirt on their skins.

A big highlight for me was being able to pat one of the elephants as it stood near by and fed on some leaves - hairs were very bristly.

The second stop for the day was the Langata Giraffe Sanctuary. A rehabilitation project for the Rothschild Giraffe which was once upon a time used for target practice and consequently resulted in the decimation of the species.

Alan, being in the know, recommended we visit the reserve where the male, Jock, lives first and then enter the main sanctuary to check out the females. We roamed through the reserve, looking everywhere for Jock who remained well hidden - for a large animal they are remarkably difficult to see! After perhaps an hour, we returned to the main gate and still no sign of Jock. Alan seemed determined that we find him, told us to wait where we were while he had one last quick look. Many thanks to Alan who returned breathless ten minutes later, "Donna, bring the food". We started racing through the bush, ducking and weaving, sticks cracking under foot and branches snagging on our clothes. I felt like I was on animal planet or something, a Steve Irwin moment, camera around my neck, bursting with excitement to spot Jock.

The first thought in my head, was oh my god, that is a huge giraffe. Jock is around 20 years old and six metres tall. I expected him to be wary or to walk away from us, yet he seemed calm and relaxed. Hand feeding was an incredible experience. You stand there watching this huge head come down from the clouds and gently take the food from your hand. Giraffe's have a huge tongue, approximately 18 inches in length and very rough.

Whilst Jock is free to roam around, he does however have such a hard life mating with the females whenever they come into season, the females are 'breeders' only and kept within an enclosure over the road from Jock.

In the main sanctuary, from a raised platform you are brought eye to eye with the females who move from one food source to another - once you run out, they lose interest and move on. The sanctuary currently has several young, with the newest addition being two and a half weeks old.

Two non-profit organisations which are doing marvelous things for ensuring wildlife will be around for generations to come.

The day was wrapped up with a visit to Karen Blixen's estate (of Out of Africa fame) where I left the Danes in our group to wander around the beautiful gardens.

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