Elephant Orphans At the Kenyan Wildlife Sanctuary, Have Some Muddy Fun

Orphaned elephants in Kenya’s Tsavo East National Park have been captured on camera having a blast with a playful mud fight, transforming their grey hides into a striking red hue.

In the heartwarming scene, the elephants use their trunks to toss red earth over their bodies, covering themselves in a protective layer of dust.

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This dusty coating shields them from the sun and insects, a behavior essential for their health and well-being.

Environmental consultants Mick Baines, 63, and Maren Reichelt, 36, witnessed this charming spectacle.

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Baines remarked, “Watching them cover themselves in red dust was quite funny; some looked very comical – almost like clowns putting on make-up. We had to be careful not to get as covered in dust as the elephants.”

The elephants are part of a herd of orphans at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Ithumba. The Trust rehabilitates these elephants, many of whom have endured traumatic experiences due to human activities, before releasing them back into the wild.

A daily highlight for these elephants is their visit to the deep mud bath enclosures, where they joyfully romp and play.

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Baines noted, “The project works to get these orphans back into their natural habitat. Seeing them so happy was one of the most amazing wildlife encounters we have had, putting huge smiles on our faces.”

Elephants naturally dust themselves to adopt the soil color in their surroundings. This behavior is particularly striking after a mud bath, as the dust forms a thick layer on their skin.

However, the increasing number of elephants at the Trust is a stark reminder of the growing threat of poaching fueled by the demand for ivory in Asia. Additionally, human-elephant conflicts arise due to habitat loss from expanding agriculture.

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Baines also shared a touching experience with a former orphan, Nasalot, a 12-year-old female who successfully transitioned back to the wild but returned to visit the enclosures.

“One of these, Nasalot, walked right up to us and enjoyed physical interaction. Other former orphans came too, some even bringing their wild companions to the fences and the mud bath.”

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