The world’s elephant population is in dire need of help. This fact has become very well-known in the past decade and the urgency of the situation is pushing past the point of being ignored. One adult African elephant is killed every 15 minutes for their tusks, all to fuel the demands of the illegal ivory trade. The loss of these individuals is undeniably painful, but many forget the fact that these are not just individuals elephants, their members of a herd, and many of them leave behind babies. Like human children, baby elephants rely on their parents for essential care and they cannot survive without their mothers. So while one elephant may die every 15 minutes due to poaching, countless others will likely too as a result of this loss.
The African elephant is projected to be extinct from the wild within the next 20 years if nothing is done to protect these animals. Luckily, there are many people who are determined to ensure that does not happen.
Mishak Nzimbi, elephant caretaker at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT) is one of these individuals. Nzimbi has been with DSWT for the past 26 years and has served as a loving parental figure for over 180 orphaned baby elephants during his time there. His kindness and knowledge of dealing with little ones has gained him the title of “elephant whisperer” and his presence at the sanctuary has aided in the recovery of countless orphans. Like humans, elephants grieve, so many of the babies who come to the shelter are deeply depressed and traumatized, especially if they witnessed the death of their parents. No matter the condition of the babies, Nzimbi is there to provide all the love and care they need to carry on.
“If you stay with elephants and if you love them, they will love you in return. They can know your heart and see your soul. I always welcome them, talk to them and let them come to me. I never turn them away,” Nzimbi told Africa Geographic.
The bond between Nzimbi and the elephants extends far beyond that of a caretaker and he readily considers the orphans to be his children. There is no denying that his kindness and gentle nature has helped all of the animals he’s come into contact with flourish and thrive in their lives. After all, not all superheroes wear capes, in this case, they wear green coats.
While we might not all be able to care for elephants in the way that this amazing man does, we can all play a role in conserving this species with our daily actions. First and foremost, never purchase any item made of ivory (remember, the U.S. is the second largest market for illegal ivory), and support the work of organizations that are working to protect elephants in their natural habitat, like DSWT. Together we can all be heroes for elephants, their time is running out, so when will you start?
Image source: David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust