The Elephant Whisperer

Meet the elephant whisperer
Intelligence, teamwork and compassion are some of the attributes given to elephants, and Mishak Nzimbi wouldn’t have anything else said about his ‘children’.

Better known by his nickname, the elephant whisperer, Mishak has been a ‘mum’ to over 190 orphaned elephants for more than 26 years at The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust’s (DSWT) Elephant Orphanage in Nairobi National Park. You can often find him in the midst of a herd of elephants, each vying for his attention and love in the hope of a finger or thumb to suck on for comfort.

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Mishak’s skills and experience have brought even the most traumatised, frightened and heart-broken elephants out of the depths of grief; like us, elephants mourn for lost loved ones and have even been known to periodically visit the grave-sites of their ancestors.

I first heard of Mishak’s unmatched devotion in the story of orphaned elephant Lempaute. Rescued at the tender age of four-weeks, orphaned elephant Lesanju, who arrived at The DSWT by helicopter in 2006, was petrified after her well-meaning rescuers cut her ear as they do in similar initiations among their livestock. Pulling up a mattress and sitting by her side for five straight hours, Mishak’s dedication and patience played a huge role in her recovery.

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Mishak’s trick? He says: “If you stay with elephants and you love them they will love you in return. They can know your heart and see your soul. I always welcome them, talk to them and let them come to me. I never turn them away”.

As the longest serving Keeper at the Orphanage, living day and night with the orphaned elephants, there is nobody who understands them better and can more appreciate just how human-like elephants are. When I asked him what he loves best about elephants, he said: “If you look at them and spend time with them they are like human beings. I talk to them as if they were my own children.”

The work of The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, including our vital work to rescue, hand rear and reintegrate orphaned baby elephants is entirely reliant on donations to continue. Every 15 minutes an elephant is killed for its ivory, including mothers with young calves.

Each orphaned baby elephant that we rescue requires intensive care, medicine, milk and 24/7 emotional support to make it through the physical and psychological trauma of being orphaned.

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We can’t bear a future without elephants and if you can’t either, we’d love for you to join The Enormous Elephant Run, our community fun run in London (11/06/) and Manchester (09/07) to help raise funds for their survival. Our ‘herd’ is made up of incredible people that are donning our elephant costumes to run, jog or walk and raise much needed funds to protect Africa’s elephants. Find out more and register at: www.runforelephants.com.

If running is not for you, you can help us by fostering an orphaned elephant in our care.  From just £30 a year, you can choose to foster any of 76 orphans currently dependent on us and then follow their journey as they grow, through monthly email updates. It’s one way to get to know some of the characters like Rapa and Mbegu at the Nursery, and by becoming a part of their recovery and the future survival of the species, it also makes the perfect gift for children and wildlife lovers. Become a part of our foster family today at: www.thedswt.org/foster.

Together, we can keep our beloved elephants safe for generations to come. Are you in?

Amie Alden, Fundraising and Communications Officer at The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.

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