Location: Nairobi, Kenya
With the FIFA World Cup on the horizon, all eyes are on Africa, and football is on the tip of everyone’s tongue. In Kenya, even elephants are perfecting their soccer skills at The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.
It is not a common sight to see a herd of elephants chasing a yellow football and tackling one another for possession of the ball. But just outside Nairobi City Centre, visitors flock to the Trust to watch the animals playing a game of football while they graze.
The Wildlife trust was established in 1952 by the late David Leslie William Sheldrick who was also the founder warden of Tsavo East National Park in 1948. After his death in 1976, David’s wife, Dr Dame Daphne Sheldrick, took over the activities of the trust and has earned numerous awards for her work.
The elephants are orphans that have been rescued from various parts of the country after their parents were killed by poachers. Illegal poaching has had detrimental effects on the elephant population in Kenya. The Trust is also involved in conservation projects in the park such as de-snaring, maintaining fences and monitoring animals.
During their two years in the Trust, the elephants are fed milk every three hours. At night, the keepers tuck them in with blankets and provide them with mattresses to sleep on. As part of their programme, the elephants are taught to play soccer as a way of developing their relational skills. After their two years, the elephants are integrated into the wild at the Tsavo National Park.
Between 1987 and 2009, more than 85 elephants had passed through the centre, and double that amount of tourists had visited to see the soccer stars in action.
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