Compassionate Giants: Orphan Elephants Rally to Comfort a Grieving Baby Elephant Mourning the Loss of His Mother

“Though it is something we have seen time and again, the empathy shown by these elephants never ceases to amaze” ??

Life had just been turned upside down for this little calf.

Wandering near a river in Kenya’s Tsavo East National Park, 1-year-old Mukkoka was all alone, and his mother or other elephants were nowhere in sight. He was tired, lonely and scared.

Thankfully, rescuers from David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT), which saves and rehabilitates orphaned elephants, found the calf just in time. They were doing an aerial sweep of the area in a plane when they spotted Mukkoka’s lone tracks in the sand along the Tiva River. Sadly, they never found any sign of his mom, so they’re not sure what happened to her.

The team scooped up the little elephant and rushed him to the orphanage for medical care and a much-needed drink of milk after being alone for so long.

A few days later, when he was feeling a bit better, his caretakers knew it was the perfect time to introduce him to the most helpful medicine of all: friends.

As soon as he was introduced, the other elephants instantly gathered around the baby, showering him with love and attention. He was part of their family now.

“They immediately enveloped him and led him out into the forest to meet the rest of the nursery herd,” Rob Brandford, executive director of DSWT, told The Dodo. “The greeting he was met with was a warm one, with the other babies reaching out their trunks to comfort and welcome Mukkoka as a new family member.”

As highly social animals, elephants thrive when living alongside others of their kind. They rely on one another for comfort and friendship — and the others knew Mukkoka needed it most of all.

It was an especially touching moment for the elephants’ human caretakers, even though they see the animals’ deep family bonds and compassion for others nearly every day.

“Though it is something we have seen time and again, the empathy shown by these elephants never ceases to amaze,” Brandford said. “Remembering that they too have experienced the loss of their own family, their level of compassion is genuinely heartwarming to watch as they reach out to newly orphaned calves, offering comfort and friendship.”

While Mukkoka has faced the grave loss of his mother, he’s in the best possible place to prepare him to return to the wild again one day. He’ll likely spend the next 10 years being cared for by DSWT until he’s reintegrated into a protected wild habitat.

Until then, he’ll be healing and learning all the ropes of how to be an elephant — with encouragement from his sweet adoptive family every step of the way.

“Touch [is] an important part of welcoming a new family member and making them feel safe,” Brandford added. “This loving interaction helps enormously as the orphans overcome the sense of loss.”


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