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Elephant Orphan Returns To Caretakers To Give Birth

When it came time to have her own baby, Emily the elephant knew where she would be safe—among the caretakers who raised her.

By Vicki Croke

It sounds like part of a plotline conceived by Charles Dickens: Two days before Christmas, an ex-orphan named Emily returns as an adult to the orphanage that had treated her so kindly in order to give birth to her own baby in safety.

DSWT-baby Emma

But it’s a true story, not a made-up one, and the orphan is an elephant in Kenya, not a little waif in London. Emily was unlucky enough to have been separated from her family at the age of only one-month in 1993, but lucky enough to have been taken in and raised by Daphne Sheldrick’s famous elephant orphanage and released back into the wild when she was mature enough.

Normally, she lives a regular elephant life out in the wilds of Tsavo East National Park, but on December 23, 2014, she walked back to her orphanage in the park, the Voi rehabilitation unit, on a mission—to give birth. And it was all captured on video (witnessing the birth of a wild elephant is a rarity, even for dedicated field biologists).

The post from the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust explains:

Ex-orphan Emily, who had been absent for much of the latter part of 2014 living a normal wild elephant life walked back to the stockades at 10.30 am on the 23rd of December to give birth to her 2nd wild born calf in the company of her erstwhile human family of Keepers who had been instrumental in her own upbringing during her formative years. This was witnessed and captured on film by the Keepers and the event was filled with trumpets and rumbles of joy from Emily’s satellite herd of ex orphans who had accompanied her back, all of whom were eager to gently help get the new precious bundle to its feet, nudging it gently, and using their trunks to lift the baby. It was another daughter for Emily named Emma, a little sister for Emily’s first born Eve, who was born on the 11th of December 2008.

Emily, “a gentle and loving elephant,” has become a formidable matriarch in her own right, acting as a leader for other orphans who are now part of her family.

Baby Emma-DSWT

Of course, by returning to the rehabilitation unit, she’s shown that her human caretakers are still trusted family members to her and that she knows the center is a very safe and protected place.

Emily knew that in their company she and her calf would remain safe from predators and because elephants never forget she will always love and trust the Keepers who have played such an important role in saving her life. Never could there be more tangible proof than her willingness to share her precious wild born babies with them, even allowing them to witness the birth of little ‘Emma’.


Emma is doing well and Emily’s herd of ex-orphans have remained in the orbit of the Voi stockades choosing to visit the Keepers and the dependent Voi Orphans every day since the 23rd of December with their most treasured brand new little package. Of course Emma’s presence has sent all the Voi orphans into a euphoric state as they love nothing more than tiny babies, and now they have another they can call their very own.

Maybe it’s better than a Dickens tale.


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5 Responses to “Elephant Orphan Returns To Caretakers To Give Birth”

  1. Suzanne morris

    Best elephant video ever! Can’t wait to see more on your website!

  2. Courtney Kennedy

    These beautiful beings never cease to amaze me…Congrats Emily on your new arrival!
    Thank you for the video share.

  3. Clint

    This fills me love and hope. Elephants are a wonder in so many respects: their size is the first thing we’re all awed by, but their intellect is equally huge and their emotions seem so similar to ours. And isn’t it funny that we puny humans are both a danger to and a protector of these behemoths? I’m dazzled. Thank you!

  4. Gwynneth Luton

    I loved the way all the other elephants gathered around to help the baby, just shows that animals are better carers than humans. Good luck to them all.xx

  5. chissl

    Splinter groups, usually led by female elephants that were Junior Matriarchs in their time, often peel off from the main ex-orphan group led by the oldest female Matriarch, taking with them whoever voluntarily wants to come along.


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