Notes on Nairobi (7): baby elephants and babysitting

Day four in Nairobi was a Monday so Richard was at work, but Emily & Catrin picked up Vee and me from the hotel about 10 am. Nairobi roads are pretty amazing – choked with cars, lorries, buses, colourful minibuses called “matabu”, policemen, vendors walking between vehicles, and even on occasion lines of cows.

Eventually we reached our first destination: the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust which is located on a plot in the south-west corner of the Nairobi National Park. Sheldrick was an anti-poaching warden of one of Kenya’s national parks and today the organisation he founded looks after orphaned baby elephants. Visitors gather round a muddy watering hole where a handler introduces each of the elephants by name and explains how they were found and what was their condition. There are sad tales of elephants being found in snares or down wells or having been abandoned by herds or attacked by hyenas or being wounded or starving.

The current population of the trust is 32 elephants aged one and a half to three and a half years old and we met 29 of them. We saw them being given human formula milk from large plastic bottles and perhaps the the funniest sight of the visit was witnessing some of the creatures feeding themselves from a bottle held in their curled trunk.

Our afternoon was spent at Nairobi National Park itself. This is a remarkable location: the only national park in a capital city anywhere in the world. It extends over 117 sq km and over 100 mammal species (including lion, buffalo, leopard and rhino) and more than 400 bird species have been recorded there.

Vee and I have been to national parks in South Africa and Botswana and we know that what you see depends on the time of year, the time of day, and sheer luck, but we did pretty well thanking to Emily’s careful driving and keen eyesight. We spotted lots of oryx and gazelle, some ostriches and baboons, a family of five giraffes, and no less than 20 or so zebra actually on the road all around us.

Now since Richard and Emily moved to Nairobi two months ago, they have not had an evening out with just the two of them because they do not have any babysitting – sorry Catrin, childminding – arrangements yet, so I volunteered to do the business. Once we had finished at the national park and braved the horrendous downtown traffic, we dropped Vee back at the hotel and went on to the house.

While Richard and Emily went out for a meal, I ate dinner with Catrin and then gave her a bath before reading to her and then lying by her until she was asleep. I read several stories from her new book “The Seven Habits Of Happy Kids”. Thanks to her wonderful parents, she is a happy kid but this book teaches some life lessons in story form.


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