Updated: Fri, 25 Jan 2013 18:22:39 GMT | By Ron Allen, Correspondent, NBC News

Orphaned elephants find sanctuary in Kenya amid rampant poaching



Kenyan police announced on Jan. 15 they had seized the biggest haul ever of smuggled elephant ivory. Two tons of ivory valued at around $1.5 million was stuffed in a container at the port of Mombasa.

"This is a big catch, the biggest ever single seizure of ivory at the port of Mombasa," Kiberenge Seroney, the port's police officer in charge of criminal investigations, told Reuters.

"We fail to understand where one gathers the courage to park such enormous quantities of ivory, hoping that they can slip through our security systems."

Earlier in the month, poachers killed a family of 11 elephants in the single biggest slaughter of the animals on record in the east African country.

The harrowing news prompted NBC News cameraman William Angelucci to pull out a video he had filmed at a unique elephant orphanage in the country.

The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust has been trying to save African elephants since the 1970s. It takes in young elephants that have been orphaned by the slaughter of their mothers and fathers for their tusks. The staff essentially become surrogate parents, feeding the youngsters by hand. As they grow older, for some elephants, humans are the only "parents" they've known.

So far, more than 80 elephants have been reintroduced to the wild after reaching an age between eight to 10 years old. That, however, doesn't end the relationship. The trust’s handlers say many of the animals "keep in touch," and even have brought their own young to visit their human families.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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