An orphaned baby elephant named Moses is raised by a human mother

 Lots of mothers wake in the middle of the night to feed their babies, but not many get up to give a bottle to an infant elephant.

Jenny Webb adopted a baby boy elephant who was just a few weeks old in February. The orphaned elephant calf was named Moses after being found in the grasses of a riverbed by game rangers at Vwazi Wildlife Reserve in northern Malawi.

Rangers tried to find his family herd for two days without success, said the 48-year-old Webb, adding that the calf's mother was likely killed by elephant poachers. The illegal killing of elephants is rife in Africa, with conservation groups saying that tens of thousands of elephants are being killed each year for their ivory tusks.

Malawi's national parks did not have the funds to raise the little elephant, so Webb, the founder of the Jumbo Foundation an orphanage for large animals, took on the job of caring for the little pachyderm.

Moses weighs 100 kilograms (220 pounds) and each day he drinks 24 liters (6.3 gallons) of an infant formula that is boosted with coconut milk and 14 other ingredients.

"Elephants are extremely sensitive," said Webb. "It amazed me. We think of elephants as big, strong creatures but they are very emotional. Moses picks up on my feelings. If I am sad, he is nurturing. If I am angry, he quickly gets upset."

Webb has placed a mattress on the dining room floor where she and Moses curl up for the night. Moses gets up about every two hours and shuffles around the room until Webb wakes and gives him his bottle feed.

In the mornings, as Webb has a coffee and watches television, Moses throws his trunk over her shoulder and nuzzles his head against her.

Webb gets advice from veterinarians and from the Elephant Orphanage Project in Zambia, which for 16 years has offered similar support to baby elephants.

In the wild, a baby elephant would shelter underneath his mother to be shielded from the sun and remain warm and safe. To emulate this, Webb puts a blanket over Moses. His still tender hide is also protected with sunscreen and moisturizer.

Moses had to have a hernia operation not long after being taken in by Webb because his umbilical cord was damaged when he was born. He stopped eating because of the stress of the surgery and anesthetic and lost weight, but after force feedings the young elephant returned to a healthy weight, Webb said.

Caring for the baby elephant is a 24-hour job. Webb gets help from two employees Matimat Julius and Jim Tembo. All three take turns playing with Moses and using their arms to sweep the dust, the way a mother elephant would do with her trunk.

Like many toddlers, Moses likes to go outside and Webb takes him on daily walks with the family dogs.

"The dogs are like his herd," she said. "He socializes with them in the day and likes going for walks with them. He quickly established dominance with them. But at night, he herds the dogs outside. He doesn't like to sleep with the dogs. He likes to sleep with the cats, and me."

As soon as the sun goes down, Moses lies next to Webb on the makeshift bed.

In a few weeks, Moses is expected to start eating hay, grass, bark and horse feed along with his formula. He has started putting grass and leaves in his mouth but he is not yet eating them. By the time he is four he will stop having formula and will be eating vegetation. And when he is five, Webb plans to reintroduce Moses to life in the wild, possibly in the national park where he was found.

In the meantime Webb plans to raise funds to build a boma, an African-style corral, where Moses can live when he becomes too big for the house.

"By the time he is two years old, he will no longer be able to fit through the door and he will have to live outside," said Webb.

Webb wants to make Moses "an ambassador for elephants" to educate people against wildlife poaching.

Raising Moses has been challenging, said Webb, "but it has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I have raised children, and this is very similar, but you can't put an elephant in a pram (stroller)."

Webb said that raising Moses gave her the idea to start an orphanage for other animals.

"When we got Moses we found there is a desperate need for an orphanage for large animals. Elephants, hippos, buffalo, rhinos ... there is no place for those babies to go if their parents are killed," she said. "There are some places in Zambia and Kenya, but no place here in Malawi, so that is what I am working for."

Responses to "Orphaned baby elephant is raised by human mom (Photos) "

  1. Unknown says:

    Wot a fantastic job you are doing ! and given the chance i to wud do the same thing, each life is precious but i do have a soft spot for flumps xxx

  2. Anonymous says:

    May all the love and fortune come back to you Webb I wish I was there to assist you.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I could not think of anything more rewarding than raising a baby elephant even though its such a hard thing to do,spending almost every moment together bringing the trust god gless and hope it grows into a strong addult and can go back to the wield:)

  4. catkins says:

    This is noble and compassionate. However, I wonder about his need to be in a real elephant herd and learn from them. At the David Sheldrick orphanage, they sleep with a human keeper with whom they are bonded but begin socializing with other orphans of diff ages. They eventually graduate to another area and group. Since she says there is nothing like this in Malawi, might it not be better for Moses to send him to the DSWT orphanage if they would accept and be transported while he is still small? There he would live and learn with other elephants.

  5. Anonymous says:

    There is a special place in Heaven for this woman!

  6. Fabulous job!! So very moving. I am sure you will know what to do to socialize him with other elephants, trust yourself and your advisers. Bravo! Bravo!

  7. Anonymous says:

    Elephants have always been special to me. It would be so wonderful to be able to do what you are doing! Bless you.

  8. Anonymous says:

    What a beautiful person to have so much compassionate for Gods creatures. I think people like her have a special place in heaven.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Jenny Webb, as you go quietly pursuing your duties everyday, know that you have a bigger reward than most of us waiting for you.

  10. Unknown says:

    Great Story. We need more people who understand and care for animals like this one.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Wow, what an amazing woman--she's a hero! I had no idea that rescuing an elephant was a 5 year commitment. God bless them both!

  12. Anonymous says:

    Our Creator knows of your nurturing and sacrifice, Blessings and Prayers that you may accomplish all of your hopes to do more,

  13. Preciosa historia.

  14. Preciosa historia.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Very touching story but it infuriates me to think of why it most likely had to happen in the first place. As the story suggested, someone probably killed its mother for her tusks. People who do that should go to jail for life, be executed, or maybe have a public display of their arms being cut off so they couldn't do it again. Maybe, just maybe, any of those threats would start to cut down on the number of elephants killed each year.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Moses has more to teach you than you can teach him, and in learning this, you will be rewarded with what few on earth receive, that is true understanding. salute

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