In August 1999, an elephant who was just a few weeks old found herself stuck in a drying waterhole.
To make matters worse, her herd was forced to abandon her, leaving the infant to fend for herself. On her own, she didn’t stand a chance. But thanks to the intervention of Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (SWT), she was given a second chance, just like many other elephants they've saved over the years.
Founded 45 years ago, SWT is one of Africa’s oldest wildlife charities. They’re most known for their Orphans' Project, "the first and most successful elephant orphan rescue and rehabilitation program in the world."
For that reason, they were happy to take in the helpless stranded infant, who they named Icholta. She struggled at first, especially when she got her first molars, but with time her health improved, allowing her glowing personality to shine through.
Despite being abandoned in a drying waterhole, Icholta surprised her caretakers with her love for water and mud baths. She also stole their hearts with her adorable face and friendly personality!
Icholta was nursed back to health alongside other orphans, many of whom were included in a book called "Wild Orphans" by Geri Ellis.
The caretakers of SWT fall in love with the animals they care for, making it a bittersweet day when they’re finally ready to be released back into the wild. But there is one consolation: Many of their elephants return for visits, especially their ex-orphan moms.
That’s why, after three years of no visits, the SWT team couldn’t contain their excitement when Icholta returned with her two babies! They were also accompanied by another elephant they cared for named Kihari, who was serving as a helpful friend and nanny to Icholta and her little ones.
The 6-year-old baby, who they had named Inca, was as happy and healthy as ever. But there was a very specific reason for the elephants' visit: Icholta has just given birth and was eager to introduce her newborn to her "home" and the people who raised her! They named this precious little one Izzy, and she’s doing just as well as her big brother.
Best of all, they were joined by a few others from Icholta’s herd at SWT, making this a truly unforgettable reunion! Such a joyous occasion would be special at any time, but the fact that it happened in 2022 is especially remarkable.
“The birth of a baby elephant is always an auspicious occasion, but Izzy’s birth has special significance,” SWT shared on their website. “She is the 45th known calf born to an orphan we rescued, raised, and reintegrated back into the wild — and the fact that we met her just as we began our 45th year feels fitting indeed.”
When Daphne Sheldrick founded SWT in 1977, she recognized that by saving a single elephant, countless others would also be given a chance to live. Now, 45 years later, her dream of doing just that is going strong.
"One last triumph I longed for," Daphne said in 1977, "Was to be able to look with pride on an animal like an elephant, born of a mother I had nurtured from the start, and think, deep inside my heart, 'But for me...'"
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