Nairobi National Park and Elephant Orphanage

On a business trip to Nairobi, I had the luck to have a Sunday free. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough time to fly to one of Kenya’s spectacular game parks, but it did provide enough time to see all the big game, all within the city limits.

The 117-square- kilometer Nairobi National Park is mere kilometers from Nairobi’s business district (oddly enough, visitors see lions, giraffes and zebras grazing on the savanna, with the skyscrapers looming in the distance).

Head out early in the morning to see the wild game – lions, leopards, hippopotamus, wilderbeasts, giraffes, and zebras all roam free, but escape the heat during the hot afternoons. The park is along a well-known path of wildlife migration, although this migration is increasingly threatened by urban growth.

Local guides can be arranged, including transport though the park.

After your visit to the Nairobi National Park, be sure to stop by the Elephant Orphanage. Poaching is a serious problem in Kenya’s game parks. When a mother elephant is killed – mainly for her tusks – she is often left to die, and her calf remains alongside her,  where he or she will eventually die of starvation. I learned that baby elephants are milk-dependent for the first three years of life and that they are social animals that must learn to live in new communities once they are separated from their herd.

The game parks are working to end poaching, but gamekeepers also grew concerned about the young victims the practice claims. The Nairobi Elephant Orphanage was opened in 1977, to rescue baby orphan elephants from Kenya’s national parks and to shelter them until they reach the age that they can be released again into the wild.

Bottle time!

The elephants are fed milk and housed within the orphanage. Gamekeepers are rotated often enough across the groups of elephants so that the young elephants will not grow too attached to one particular human. When the elephants are three years old, and no longer milk-dependent, they are released into the wild.

The Elephant Orphanage relies on donations. If you’re looking for a unique gift, you can adopt-an-elephant long distance. The money is used for the elephant orphanage and you will receive news and updates about ‘your’ elephant until he or she is released in the wild.

Enjoy your time in Nairobi!

After posting this, I saw for the first time this impressive National Geographic photo story of the baby orphan elephants. Aside from having amazing photos, the text explains much of the information keepers provide to visitors during their visit. Be sure to take a look at this!


  1. Chantel Rhondeau on May 5, 2012 at 8:56 am

    Very awesome! You go to the neatest places! So sad about the poachers though 🙁

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  7. Nicola Layouni on April 2, 2013 at 8:37 am

    Great piece,Kimberly. So sad that we need places like these, but I’m glad that there are people willing to help these poor creatures.

  8. kimberlysullivan on April 2, 2013 at 4:09 pm

    Thanks, Nicola. Couldn’t agree more. Orphanages such as these work hard to reintroduce the elephants back into the wild. Since it’s a matriarchal society (no wonder elephants are so intelligent!), they introduce the ‘orphans’ into the same parks so the older female elephants already returned to the parks will ‘know’ the younger orphans and bring them into the herd and ease the transition.

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