Maktoa – The Orphan Elephant

All over the world elephants are considered to be symbols of good luck, power, and wisdom. There is something so beautiful about them. Every culture has something beautiful to say about elephants. I love them too. So it is no surprise that my Kenya visit included going to The Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.

The Sheldrick Wildlife Trust works to conserve, protect, and preserve wildlife and their habitats. They are creating community awareness while still working diligently towards anti-poaching and safeguarding the natural environment. They are into rescuing and hand rearing elephant and rhino orphans, along with other species so that these animals can in due course enjoy a quality life in the wilderness.

Now, going there was not easy as we were stuck in traffic for way too long and by the time we reached there, the visitation time was almost over. The security official guided us towards the area where the elephants were gathered for their feeding and a stroll. This period is also used for visitors to bond with them.

One of the employees told us about the amazing memory of the elephants. They can remember almost all the events that happened to them and recognize a person they have met many years ago. Some even say that the memories are passed down from ancestors to the next generation. Also, they form deep bonds with humans and they are extremely emotional animals. Some of them even mourn the deaths of their loved ones for many months.

To say my love for them deepened even further is an understatement. Now when I saw them all out there in the open I had an adrenaline rush. They are such gentle animals and such beautiful creations of God. There is something so calming about their presence. After meeting them along with the rest of the visitors, I yearned for more one-on-one time with them and also wanted to see how I could contribute towards this beautiful initiative.

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A conversation with Angela Sheldrick encouraged me to adopt an orphan elephant. Offering life and hope to an animal in need is what we do when we adopt them. Once they are grown up and healthy they are led back to the forest to live the life they were meant to live in the wilderness.

And that is how I met the perky little Maktao. He was rescued when he was 3 months old. He was dehydrated and searching for his mother and needed urgent care and attention. Slowly it became evident that this little guy had a perky nature and big attitude. Now he is 2 years old and has deep bonds with the elephants around him. To say that I fell in love with him is not enough to express how I genuinely felt.

He was initially shy but, in a little while he warmed up to me. He was a toddler in the real sense. He pulled a scarf I had tied around my neck with his little trunk and then proceeded to put it inside his mouth. I laughed and took it away from him and told him not to eat it. In a microsecond, he pulled my scarf again and attempted to stuff it in his mouth. He was playful and we had a good time.

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I wanted to spend more time with him and henceforth, I decided to spend the rest of my three days in Kenya with my toddler elephant. He is a playful and loving 2-year old who wants a ton of attention and loves playing. I wanted to shower him with love and form a sacred bond and meaningful connection with him that will forever linger in our hearts and minds.

On the second day, Maktao was moody as his friend outgrew his old accommodation and was hence shifted to a more spacious accommodation which meant he had some adjusting to do. Maktao heard his buddy crying and resisting the needed change and this made my little dude very moody. The employees there told me how Maktao had made a deep connection with his buddy and being moved away from each other was not acceptable for these two. I went with the scarf to play with him but, my little dude was not really in the mood. He tried to please me by engaging in a little play but it was obvious that his heart was not in our little games. I felt so proud of him that despite his weariness over the separation from his friend he still played with me because he cared about me. My little dude surely has a very big heart. I just tried to soothe him and remained grateful for the precious moments.

“There is mystery behind that masked gray visage, and ancient life force, delicate and mighty, awesome and enchanted, commanding the silence ordinarily reserved for mountain peaks, great fires, and the sea.” This is a Peter Matthiessen quote about Elephants from The Tree Where Man Was Born. It resonated so much with me when I looked into the eyes of Maktao who comes from an ancient life force yet he is delicate.

The third day was the final day I visited him before leaving Kenya and he was back to being his jolly self. When I told him I will be leaving Kenya, he wrapped his trunk around my neck and showed me his affection. He filled my heart with unconditional love and gratitude and I hope my love for him brightens his days even though I am far away from him.

I was given his adoption certificate and enclosed in it was a beautiful painting of my perky little 2-year old Maktao. I will frame it and look at my little dude who loves too much and cares too much and in three days owned my entire heart. Once he is grown he will go back to the wild and I know that he will remember me and share his memories with his elephant family.

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“Until one has loved an animal, part of one’s soul remains unawakened.”

-Anatole France


Photo Credit: Mynscape Photography

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