Photographer visits baby elephants, hopes for impact with his images

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April 5, 2016 | 4 min read

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“If these elephants can show us anything it’s the simple fact that all you need is love”

Randy Plett travels around the world, documenting the amazing people and places he encounters. The iStock by Getty Images exclusive photographer has seen some incredible things throughout his photographic journeys but one experience stands out: the time he visited the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, an orphan-elephant rescue and rehabilitation program in Nairobi, Kenya.

“I’m lucky to have been around a lot of elephants in my travels, but seeing so many of them running around and drinking from giant baby bottles without a care in the world was quite special,” he said. “I was captivated by how playful and lively they were.”

The orphanage rescues and raises elephants who have lost their families due to poaching or loss of habitat from issues like human overpopulation, conflict, deforestation and drought. They also rescue other animals like rhinos, giraffes and a particularly precocious gazelle.

“I was standing watching the animals when I saw a baby Thompson’s Gazelle eating about 10 feet away from me. I couldn’t’ believe how close I was to such a wild animal,” Plett said. “All of a sudden, it stopped eating and turned to look at me. It walked right up to my face and sniffed my nose — I thought it was going to bite my face. Despite my needless fear of a really small vegetarian animal, it was like pure magic.”

After spending time observing the animals, one of the things that resonated most with Plett was how the elephants appeared to be such emotional creatures.

“Elephants are very family oriented. They absolutely love each other and are very protective of one another. It was really sweet watching them play and cuddle, it was like their love made up for the loss of their mothers,” Plett said. “You could also tell how attached they were to their caretakers. One of the babies was cuddled up against one of the orphanage workers the entire time.”

He hopes this affection translates through his photos and prompts people to feel the same sense of compassion toward animals.

“I often feel that animals get the short end of the stick and are exploited for our own benefit. That’s why it’s really important for humans to have personal experiences with animals and create a connection with them. The animals that we do get to interact with act as ambassadors for the animal kingdom, and the more we interact with them, the more compelled we will be to care for and protect them,” he said. “I hope my photos inspire people to better understand and appreciate animals. If these elephants can show us anything it’s the simple fact that all you need is love.”

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