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World Elephant Day: The story of an ‘elephant mom’

Women who keep pet cats and dogs often prefer to call themselves ‘cat mom’ or ‘dog mom’. But have you ever heard about an elephant mom? On World Elephant Day, The CSR Journal brings to you an exciting tale of an ‘elephant mom’! California-based software engineer Ankita Banerjee narrates the story of how she became an ‘elephant mom’ by adopting an orphaned baby elephant from Masai Mara, Kenya.

What inspired her to adopt an elephant

Talking about what inspired her towards elephant adoption, Ankita told The CSR Journal, “Elephants are among the most intelligent creatures in the world and they are my favourite. That is the foremost reason. It is disheartening to read stories of poaching, human-elephant conflicts and land development into the elephant habitat which is affecting the elephant population in the wild. And the most impacted ones are the little elephants when they become orphaned; they are most likely to die without milk.”
“When I first read about the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and their initiative of Orphan Rescue and Rehabilitation, I saw it as an opportunity to contribute and help these orphaned elephants to grow in a safe and healthy environment. I felt it’s the best way I can give back to the world we are living in. Also, through adoption, I can make others aware and encourage more people to help,” she added.

Naleku, a birthday gift

Hailing from Kolkata, India, Ankita is currently settled in California and is mother to an 11-month-old toddler. However, she is now the mother of two, with Naleku being her elephant daughter! Ankita adopted the female baby elephant as a gift which she presented to herself on her birthday, 15th February!
Talking about the same, she said, “Naleku is a precious gift I presented to myself in Feb 2020 on my birthday. Naleku was rescued at the age of 6 months from Masai Mara on on 2nd Jan 2020 and shifted to Nairobi Nursery.”
Naleku in a mood to play

A restless elephant baby

“During her initial days Naleku used to feel weary and spent most of her time lying down or sleeping. When awake, she would sense the other elephants in the nursery and constantly cry while pacing up and down her stable. So the decision was made to let her out into the forest with the other nursery orphans early, despite her being just one day in the nursery. As the days passed, she settled down more and grew used to the keepers as well. She is now 3 years old, and likes to keep the keepers on their toes with her mood swings. She can be very nurturing when the spirit moves her, but if she wakes up on the wrong side of the bed, she is quite a menace to the younger bulls. Naleku is the current matriarch of the nursery herd, enjoys her everyday mudbath and 2 bottles of milk per feeding every 3 hours,” informed the 34-year-old Fremont-based engineer.

Sheldrick Wildlife Trust: Haven for Elephants & Rhinos

Ankita has adopted the baby elephant through Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. It is based in Nairobi, Kenya, with the field headquarters bordering Tsavo East National Park. The Sheldrick Wildlife Trust is a separately registered charity in the UK and is directly supported by Sheldrick Wildlife Trust USA, a registered 501(c)(3) in the United States, she informed. Naleku’s current location is Nairobi Nursery, Kenya.
Throwing light on the same, she shared, “I was browsing through the internet about African Elephants and their habitat when I found the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust website. ‘Sheldrick Wildlife Trust: Haven for Elephants & Rhinos’ was established 45 years ago and is best known for its Orphans’ Project, the first and most successful elephant orphan rescue and rehabilitation program in the world. It is a pioneering conservation organisation, dedicated to the protection of wildlife and the preservation of habitats in East Africa. The process of adoption is digital. You can visit their website, choose the type of animal, of different age and genders and rescue location. Naleku’s picture and rescue story moved me and I chose her for adoption.”
Naleku is now three years old

Annual payment and monthly updates

“You can pay a minimum of 50$ (one time payment) to proceed with the adoption and the entire money will be used by the trust for their food and care over the year. This can be renewed every year. After you complete the online application, you will be awarded with an online adoption certificate, monthly email updates on your orphan and the project, water colour paintings by Angela Sheldrick, access to special content; latest keepers’ diaries, videos and photographs,” Ankita shared.

Waiting to meet Naleku

Since every orphan in their care will ultimately be reintegrated back into the wild, Sheldrick Wildlife Trust usually limits their exposure to humans and allows only an hour visit per day. Even though Ankita has never visited Naleku physically, she wishes to meet her adopted elephant soon! She said, “Yes, I want to visit her very soon. Till then, I am keeping myself happy with her daily updates and pictures over email.”
Ankita is planning to visit Naleku soon

How does it feel to be an ‘Elephant mom’

Ankita said in an emotional tone, “Elephants are very protective towards their kids, and the bond is very strong. I may not be physically present to protect Naleku but through my adoption I am making sure she is happy and growing big in her own healthy and secure space. I read every day that she is playing with others of her kind, getting her food at the right time and enough sleep and care. This makes me feel that yes, I am protecting her even though from a distance. It gives me immense joy to feel that I am doing something for nature and sharing space with wildlife.”

World Elephant Day

The 12th August of every year is celebrated across the globe as World Elephant Day. The purpose is to raise awareness about the plight of elephants all over the world.
“African elephants are listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of threatened species. World Elephant day gives us a platform to raise awareness about the issues that are threatening elephants. Adoption is one way to save them from getting extinct. I will encourage each one of you to spend some time on this day, to nurture different options to protect our biggest land animal,” concluded the elephant-lover.