Goat Milk Saves the Baby Elephants

Hello and happy Monday! Starting the week off on this feel good article coming your way from our favorite spot in the world – Kenya!

The other story of the pandemic

This story is from CNN world and is about how the pandemic disrupted the supply chain of powdered baby formula used by The Reteti sanctuary in Kenya — the first elephant orphanage in Africa to be owned and run by members of the local community.

For decades human baby formula has been used to feed orphaned baby elephants in Kenya. When the pandemic disrupted the supply chain and baby formula became hard to get, the sanctuary had to look for other solutions. They turned to something right in their backyard for the answer – goats milk from local tribes.

Goats milk a better baby formula

The sanctuary had already been thinking about using milk from local goats and the pandemic provided the push it needed to try the experiment.

“It was really just kind of being brave enough to change, to move away from a formula that you’ve always used,” said Katie Rowe, who co-founded the sanctuary in 2016. “The pandemic did this to people across the world, where you suddenly re-evaluated everything that you do in your home, how you cook, how you buy your groceries and how you should be doing things much more locally. And for us, it was something that we’d always felt was really important: that we shouldn’t be importing milk from the other side of the world.”

Survival rates rise with goats milk

The results have been impressive. Since starting with the goat’s milk, the sanctuary has seen survival rates rise for its youngest and most vulnerable elephants. The sanctuary had done a lot of research on the benefits of goats milk and now found goat milk to be more than impressive when they actually switched over.

As it turns out goats milk is easier to digest for elephants because it contains smaller fat particles making it easier to digest, and along with its many other nutritional components goat milk has shown to be superior to traditional baby formula.

Not just the elephants who are prospering. The “Milk Mamas” are thriving too

All that money that was going out of the country to import baby formula is now staying within the community and going to what the community calls the ‘milk mamas,.

Milk Mamas are the women who own the goat milk production and for the first time in their lives are now opening bank accounts and able to save money, giving them an opportunity to send their children to school, to get health care and support their families.

The milk is supplied by hundreds of goats in local villages from whom the sanctuary buys around 300 liters a day and brings it back to its kitchen where the milk is pasteurized and prepared in specialized formulas for each elephant’s individual needs. It is then fed to the baby elephants on the same day the goats are milked.

About Reteti Elephant Sanctuary

There are nearly 40 elephants right now at the Reteti sanctuary, which rehabilitates the rescued animals before eventually releasing them back into the wild. All of the elephant keepers are from the indigenous Samburu community, and all build deep bonds with the elephants they take care of. The Samburu people have always had strong relationship with elephants, and there’s this belief that they were once related.

“They look after one another. The elephants are family, It’s funny, when the keepers go home to their own families, you see them calling and checking in. It’s really a remarkable thing.”

When a baby elephant is found in a well or abandoned, the Reteti keepers are notified by a community member and they’ll rush out to help. Once they get to the elephant, they will usually wait about 24 hours to see if its herd will return and the calf can be reunited with its mother. If not, they’ll bring it back to the sanctuary. Slowly, the calf is then introduced to the sanctuary’s other elephants, who are very curious and will often introduce themselves.

At the sanctuary right now, there are three distinct herds. There’s a nursery herd of younger calves, a middle herd that’s a bit older, and then a bigger, older herd of elephants. Depending on what age the new elephant is, it will join one of those groups. Once they’re in a new herd, they build friendships quickly.

“They’re so good at kind of looking after each other, and they’re so affectionate and curious of each other,” Reteti Sanctuary

Watching these beautiful animals develop has been very rewarding for the sanctuary and its keepers, and now — thanks to the goats — more elephants will have a chance to flourish. As will local villagers.


Reteti Elephant Sanctuary

4 thoughts on “Goat Milk Saves the Baby Elephants”

  1. An uplifting story, Kalpana, thanks for sharing 🥰. I love how the sanctuary found a local solution that helps the elephants and the Milk Mamas community. Fantastic!

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