29 11 / 2012

I’ve been thinking a lot about commitment in the past few weeks. How easy it is to stay committed to a cause, a job, a set of responsibilities, or a love when things go your way and the boat’s not really rocking. And how hard it is to stay committed to something when the alternative - walking away and giving up - would be so much easier.

Let’s go back to my first weekend in Nairobi. Fellow fellow Mustapha and I visited the David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage. There we got to meet 25 orphaned elephants ranging in age from just a few months to 3 years old. Babies and toddlers, really. Elephants come to the nursery from many fates, often their moms were killed by poachers, or the babies themselves fell into a man-made well and couldn’t get out. The rangers at the orphanage take them in and raise them until the age of 3, feeding them from bottles and helping them learn how to be part of a herd.

I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the fact that baby elephants are out of control adorable (some might go so far as to say the nursery is an amazeadorbsfest). Mustapha and I spent an hour with them and were bewitched by their mischief the entire time. But this place is a nursery, not a retirement home. The end game is reintroduction of the elephants back into the wild.

When the elephants turn three, they leave the orphanage and are taken up to the Tsavo National Park. Then every day, the orphaned elephants are accompanied by a ranger and walked into the park for miles so they can get within range of wild groups of elephants to sort of “introduce” themselves. The rangers bring them close to different herds each day so that hopefully the little ones can find the right match. This goes on until one day the wild herd accepts the orphan and he doesn’t come back home with the ranger. 

This takes a while. A very long while. It typically takes 8-10 years for an orphan to be accepted. 

Let me say that again. Every single day, for 8 or 10 years, rangers will take an orphan out so that hopefully, one day, he’ll be accepted into a new family.

I think about the commitment these rangers have - to do the same thing over and over every single day for years on end. All for the sake of these animals. And they impress me, no doubt - but these rangers know that approach has worked in the past. There’s a history of success now. They know that if they keep it up, eventually, the babies will find a new family.

But what about the first rangers to ever try this? What kind of commitment must they have had to take these elephants out every single day for 8 years, never knowing if their plan would work. Every day. 8 years. Based purely on hope, commitment, and a belief that in the end, everything would turn out all right.

But here’s the thing: logic and data tell them to give up. After a year of trying, or two years. Or hell, after seven years of trying and failing, logic tells them that their passion is misplaced, that their love is wasted because this approach will simply never work. 

But then suddenly, it does.

Those rangers certainly had discipline. They certainly relied on science and data analysis to inform and shape their rehabilitation decisions. But that’s not all, is it? For those very first rangers, it would seem that love ultimately transcended logic. Logic can sometimes tell us to give up. But love tells us, “No, not yet. Let us hold on for a little while longer.”

  1. thomasdu77y reblogged this from nicoleiden and added:
    Amazing!
  2. nataliegrillon reblogged this from nicoleiden and added:
    a beautiful post from Nicole, even with baby elephants!
  3. nataliegrillon said: just beautiful, nicole. so powerful in so many ways. Im going to be thinking about this.
  4. nicoleiden posted this