An adorable image of a caretaker sleeping next to a baby elephant at an animal rescue in Kenya is melting hearts across the internet.
The Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, an elephant orphanage in Kenya’s capital city of Nairobi, posted the viral image, which shows one of its staff members laying down next to a calf, as the elephant adjusts to life without her mother.
“In the wild, baby elephants sleep under the protective cover of their mother and herd,” the post reads. “Our newest rescues, for whom that memory is still fresh in their minds, often need a little extra comforting, and day or night, our Keepers watch over them to make sure they receive the nurturing presence they need to pull through [the] most difficult of times.”
In addition to the psychological trauma orphaned elephants often go through, calves require round-the-clock care, especially during the teething process, when they’re prone to potentially life-threatening fever and diarrhea.
Often, the staff at elephant orphanages sleep in bunks close to the animals every night, prepared to provide medical care and emotional support when needed. To prevent calves from becoming attached to any specific person, caretakers are assigned a different elephant every night, according to National Geographic.
Caring for the calves involves encouraging them to socialize with other elephants and engage in natural behaviors as often as possible, with the goal of eventually reintegrating them into the wild. By fulfilling maternal duties in their mothers’ absence, caretakers play an invaluable role in this important process, making for some heartwarming snapshots along the way.