Covid-19 affected the whole world including orphaned elephants. During the worse of the pandemic, sanctuaries could not get baby formula. Elephant sanctuaries use the same formulas humans do as it provides the nutrition they need to thrive. Since sanctuaries such as Reteti could not get formula they needed they looked for a more dependable source. This would turn out to be goat milk.
The Reteti Sanctuary opened in 2016 and is fully run by the Samburu community. During the pandemic they were struggling to feed the young calves. They decided to try goat milk and saw the elephants thrive. The survival rate of vulnerable orphaned elephants rose once they made the switch from formula to goat milk. They were also helping their local community by buying milk from them and not from across the world. The goat “milk mamas” are able to better provide for their families now because of the switch. The sanctuary buys 300 liters of fresh goat milk daily from them. They pasteurize the milk and prepare it for the elephants. In the end it’s a win-win for both parties. The young elephants get better and fresh milk which they can easily digest and the milk moms get a steady income to provide for their families.
According to the Reteti Sanctuary there are a few different reasons why elephants are orphaned. While most of us think it’s due to poaching, they disagree. They have strict poaching laws that have deterred poachers. Most of the calves are orphaned because they fall in a deep well that’s dug in river beds. These wells help collect water for the Samburu’s livestock. Due to drought the wells are dug even deeper, making it harder for baby elephants to get out.
Once an elephant is rescued, they wait 24 hours with the calf to see if its mother or herd will return. When they don’t, they take the elephant back to the sanctuary for some TLC. Right now they have 40 elephants that they care for. Once the African elephants are old enough and can survive on their own in the wild, they release them.