Big Heart for Big Babies

The faith Edwin developed as a sponsored child inspires him to care for the vulnerable — including orphaned elephants.

As a sponsored child in Compassion’s program, Edwin Lusichi (pictured above) learned that although he lived in poverty, he had hope for a better future.

Support from his sponsor enabled Edwin to leave his impoverished Kenyan town after high school and study computer science in Nairobi. During college, he offered to help a friend and earn some extra money by watching orphaned elephants overnight at a wildlife sanctuary. The job ended up lasting much longer than one night. Eighteen years later, Edwin is head keeper and project manager at the world-renowned David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Nairobi Nursery for Orphans. Through his work, Edwin educates dignitaries, celebrities and tourists from around the world who come to see the remarkable creatures he nurtures.

Edwin cares for baby elephants that come to the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust as orphans. These calves have lost their mothers through poaching or natural disasters and arrive traumatized. Some are so depressed that they die of broken hearts. Edwin urges the distressed calves, “Please heal. Please fight. Don’t give up.” It’s a spirit of hope he credits learning from the mentors at his Compassion center as a child in the program. His sponsors, Sean and Jennifer Ryan of Ohio, also wrote him letters of encouragement. In his office desk drawer, Edwin keeps the Bible he received as a boy at his Compassion center. “Compassion molded me in a religious way,” he says. “It brought my faith to where it is today.” It also deepened his empathy for vulnerable people and animals.

Just like Edwin’s sponsor and local church nurtured his spiritual and physical needs, Edwin now does the same for the elephants — like the 6-month-old above named Musiara. Without their mothers, calves like Musiara have few survival skills and are particularly vulnerable to psychological despair.

Newborn elephants weigh 170 to 250 pounds at birth. They drink about 3 gallons of milk per day and need the milk every three hours. That’s why Edwin arranges the schedules of 100 keepers so they will be with the calves 24 hours a day, providing a stable “family” environment. They play and care for them as a group during the day and sleep beside them in stables at night.

About 200 people a day visit the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, including groups of Kenyan schoolchildren. Edwin loves to educate children about the importance of caring for God’s creatures. “All animals have the right to life and protection,” he says. The wildlife trust releases about 12 rehabilitated elephants back into the wild each year. But preparing them for the wild takes at least five years, Edwin says. “We aim to send the elephant back into the wild around age 8. Since elephants are social and overall accepting, an orphaned elephant will find a herd to take them in and adopt them as family.”

Edwin’s childhood in poverty motivated him to help the elephant keepers who work for him. He started a co-op in which staff members pool savings. Edwin then distributes the money to his keepers in the form of small loans. Edwin says that most staff members in the co-op have bought land and put their children in better schools as a result.

Edwin never thought he’d become an elephant keeper as an adult. But now he can’t imagine life without the elephants. “Conservation is in my heart now. We are all God’s creatures, and I get to help vulnerable animals. I don’t want to leave this place.”

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Jan/Feb 2018

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