It’s been nearly 20 years since this elephant named Sunyei was found stranded and alone in the wild in Africa. She was just a newborn then, sadly orphaned after becoming separated from her mother.
But thankfully, Sunyei wasn’t without a parent’s love and care for long.
Sunyei was rescued with the help of the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Kenya. It was there she first met Benjamin, head keeper at the trust’s nursery, who fills the role of mom to orphaned elephants like her.
“He organizes the day-to-day care and welfare of the orphans, ultimately making sure they are always happy and healthy,” Rob Brandford, executive director of the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, told The Dodo.SHELDRICK WILDLIFE TRUST
Under Benjamin’s care, Sunyei grew up happy and healthy, learning from him and other keepers the ins and outs of being an elephant.
In 2009, Sunyei left her caretakers at the trust to strike out on her own. But despite living free, Benjamin never left Sunyei’s heart.
SHELDRICK WILDLIFE TRUST
“While it might have been more than a decade since Sunyei chose to return to the wild, it seems she has never forgotten the kindness that was shown to her,” Brandford said.
Never has that been more clear than when Sunyei decided to emerge from the wild to pay Benjamin a visit — bringing along her own baby to meet the man who raised her.SHELDRICK WILDLIFE TRUST
“That a fully grown, wild-living elephant had the desire to introduce a new baby that very same morning to the human family that raised her, speaks volumes about their intelligence and their sense of family: We can think of no other reason than she returned to a place of safety to show off her new baby to her keepers, with whom she still maintains close bonds!” Brandford said.
This wasn’t Sunyei’s first visit, and hasn’t been her last. Since the reunion above, she’s been back to see them several more times — allowing her adoptive parents a chance to watch her baby grow up.
Ultimately, their work saving and raising Sunyei made that new generation possible. And she seems to know it.
“Though Sunyei has grown up calling Benjamin and our keepers her family, even so, any interactions her keepers enjoy with her are always on her terms,” Bradford said. “That’s what makes this moment so very special … that she chose to share this moment with Benjamin and trusted him to do so.”