Baby Elephant in a Rain Slicker

Photo: Michael Nichols

The cute photo of a baby elephant in rain slicker belied a harrowing tale. Read Charles Siebert's 2011 National Geographic story about baby elephants orphaned when their mothers were killed by poachers, and the people who spend their lives trying to help these poor creatures recover.

If elephants can wound like us, they can heal like us as well, perhaps more readily. With humans acting as stand-ins for their mothers, along with the help of the other nursery elephants, the majority of the orphans that survive recover to become fully functional wild elephants again. To date, Sheldrick's nursery has successfully raised more than a hundred orphan elephants. They have returned to the wild in wary, halting, half measures at first, having become "homo-pachyderms," caught between a deep devotion to their human caregivers and the irresistible call of their true selves.

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