Unbreakable Bonds: Orphaned Elephant Calves Find Family in Children

In a heartwarming display of trust and companionship, young children and orphaned elephant calves at Arignar Anna Zoo in Chennai, southern India, have formed an extraordinary bond that defies nature.

Rescued from the forest, these one-year-old elephants are nurtured by a dedicated team of mahouts who work closely with animals and their own children.

Best foot forward: Nandini, eight, and Lavindya, six, the children of mahouts ride home on Sharon. The 14-month-old orphaned calf was rescued from Sathyamangalam Forests in southern India

This unique relationship goes beyond caretaking, as these youngsters and elephants share a daily routine, including attending school, playing football, and sleeping.


Without this remarkable connection, zoo staff believe the orphaned elephants would not have thrived after their rescue.

Nandgopal, eight, and Lavindya, four, lie asleep next to Giri, an orphaned elephant calf who was rescued from Hosur Forest in southern India

Mahout Rajan, aged 25, shared how his four-year-old daughter Lavindya shares an exceptional connection with the elephants. Lavindya can command the young calves, and they reciprocate by wrapping their trunks around her and seeking her affection.

The emotional bond between the children and the elephants has developed over the past year since Sharon’s first orphaned elephant was brought to the zoo.


Their daily routine involves heartwarming interactions. The elephants and children begin their day with a refreshing morning bath, where even the children join in, sharing laughter and playful splashes.

Bathtime: Nandini, four, and Nandgopal, eight, give Sharon a scrub after a long day

Following their bath, the elephants are fed milk, coconut water, and glucose, ensuring their strength and well-being.

As the children head to school, they embark on a unique journey. Instead of a conventional school bus, they ride on the backs of these gentle giants, with their school bags carefully carried in the elephants’ trunks.


After school, the village becomes a playground, where the children and elephants engage in spirited football matches and playful chases.

Displaying the impressive skills he’s already mastered Anu, six, commands an adult orphaned elephant

However, the heartwarming scenes at the zoo also shed light on the challenges it faces.

The zoo is government-funded, yet additional resources are needed to enhance the care provided to these calves. P.L. Ananthasamy, the zoo’s director, emphasized the necessity of increased funds for creating a separate rehabilitation center for orphaned calves.


These bonds of friendship and caregiving between the children and the orphaned elephants highlight their critical role in each other’s lives, demonstrating the power of compassion and the unique connections that can develop across species.

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