Kenya Had an Elephant 'Baby Boom' — and Now You Can Adopt One

More than 200 baby elephants were born in Kenya in 2020.

A grouping elephants seen in Kenya's wild
Photo: Mark Alexander/Getty Images

It's not unheard of for a government to study the demographics of its population, but officials from Kenya took that concept one step further with its first-ever National Wildlife Census.

Conducted by Kenya's Wildlife Research and Training Institute, the census served as a baseline for future assessments of the country's wildlife population. The initial results from the count were extremely promising. As the count showed, there was an elephant "baby boom," with more than 200 elephants born throughout 2020.

The Cabinet Secretary for Tourism and Wildlife, the Hon. Najib Balala, described the increase in the elephant population as "COVID gifts" — a silver lining during tough times.

"The information generated during the census will support the implementation of Government of Kenya conservation and tourism policies and support tools for adaptive management," he said in a statement.

Elephants in Kenya for Amboseli Tembo Naming Project in Kenya
Courtesy of Versatile Photographers

To celebrate the elephant "baby boom" and further the country's commitment to wildlife conservation, Magical Kenya and the Kenya Wildlife Service organized an elephant adoption and naming ceremony, which was held in 2021 in Amboseli National Park.

"The goal of the festival is to secure a future for elephants and their habitats in peaceful coexistence with humans," a statement from the organizers read.

The African Wildlife Foundation was one of the first organizations to symbolically name one of Kenya's elephants with a $5,000 donation. Though donors weren't able to take their adopted cuties home for obvious reasons, they received (and continue to receive) regular updates as to how their elephant is doing in the national park.

According to Africa News, 20 baby elephants were "adopted" by new parents around the world, who named their new bundles of joy things like Magical Kenya, Minti, and Rahachameleon. And, by Oct. 9, 2021, the initiative raised 16.5 million Kenyan shillings (about $150,000).

Elephants in Kenya for Amboseli Tembo Naming Project in Kenya
Courtesy of Versatile Photographers

Beyond the good news about the baby elephants, the National Wildlife Census revealed other positive statistics as well. The overall elephant population increased by 12%, while the giraffe population grew by 34,240, representing about a 49% increase over three years.

Unfortunately, the census also came with dire news for other wildlife populations, with some, like the roan and sable antelope and mountain bongo, facing local extinction. These issues are worsened by human activity, including the introduction of livestock to areas normally inhabited by wildlife, as well as conflicts that force people to settle and plant crops in areas that the wildlife need to survive.

"Loss of habitat through infrastructural developments and change of land use is the most significant threat to elephants in the long term," the authors wrote in the final census. "Efforts involving the government, communities, and private researchers are underway toward a joint spatial planning that would secure the elephant connectivity."

With statistics to prove the success of past conservation efforts, the Kenyan government remains committed to protecting its wildlife.

Though this adoption event has passed, there are other ways you can continue to assist the elephant population, including adopting an elephant of your own through organizations like the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. You can adopt one for yourself or in someone's name for about $40 a year. You can also donate to larger global initiatives like the World Wildlife Fund and the Wildlife Conservation Network, and to more local efforts like The Tsavo Trust. The other way you can help? It's simple. By taking a safari vacation to Kenya. Be it through planning your own trip, or via an organized tour, this helps not only to bring more tourism dollars to the nation's national parks, it also continues to raise the profile of animals like elephants, which makes them all the more worthy of future protections.

For more information, head to the Kenya Wildlife Service website.

Jessica Poitevien is a Travel + Leisure contributor currently based in South Florida, but she's always on the lookout for her next adventure. Besides traveling, she loves baking, talking to strangers, and taking long walks on the beach. Follow her adventures on Instagram.

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