Skip to main Content

Melania Trump loses footing with baby elephant, but not with kids

A Secret Service agent, left, steps forward to protect U.S. first lady Melania Trump as she steps backwards after being nudged by a baby elephant she petted, at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust elephant orphanage in Nairobi, Kenya Friday, Oct. 5, 2018. Trump took part in a baby elephant feeding on Friday as she visited a national park in Kenya to highlight conservation efforts. Kenya is the third stop on her Africa tour, which began Tuesday in Ghana and continued in Malawi on Thursday. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis, Pool)

NAIROBI, Kenya — Melania Trump briefly lost her footing when a baby elephant startled her with a sudden move, but the first lady was anything but out of step when children at an orphanage welcomed her to their home with African song and dance.

It didn't take long for the typically reserved U.S. first lady to dive fully into the moment.

Mrs. Trump arrived at The Nest orphanage on Friday after helping feed baby elephants, still clad in the riding pants and tall brown boots she had worn on a safari. A group of children who live at the orphanage and had been waiting for their American visitor broke into song and dance.

With a child's hand clasped in each of hers, Mrs. Trump led the group up a walkway toward the home for orphaned infants, sashaying to the music as she approached a bank of waiting news cameras.

The first lady was similarly immersed in the moment earlier at Nairobi National Park, where she had gone early Friday to highlight elephant conservation.

Mrs. Trump seemed reticent at first but she eventually stepped down from the platform she was standing on to take a large milk bottle with a big red nipple and feed some of the orphaned elephants being raised at the park a few miles outside of downtown Nairobi.

Soon she was petting and stroking the elephants, smiling and laughing and having a good time.

First lady Melania Trump walks with singing children as she visits the Nest Orphanage in Limuru, Kenya, Friday, Oct. 5, 2018. Melania Trump has fed baby elephants as she visits a national park in Kenya to highlight conservation efforts. The U.S. first lady also went on a quick safari. Mrs. Trump is on her first-ever visit to Africa and her first extended solo international trip as first lady. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Her focus on saving elephants seemed at odds with policies put forth by her husband, President Donald Trump.

The Trump administration recently decided to again allow Americans to import the body parts of African elephants shot for sport. The administration said removing a ban on elephants imported from Zimbabwe and Zambia and encouraging wealthy big-game hunters to kill the threatened mammals would help raise money for conservation programs.

Trump at first decried lifting the ban, but he did not intervene in a federal agency decision to begin judging the importation of elephant trophies on a "case-by-case basis." Trump's adult sons, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, are trophy hunters.

It was the second time in as many days that the first lady promoted policies out of step with her husband's.

A day earlier at a primary school in Malawi, Mrs. Trump highlighted work done by the U.S. Agency for International Development to help improve child literacy in the country. Trump has twice tried unsuccessfully to slash USAID's budget by a third.

After donning a white pith helmet, Mrs. Trump later climbed into an open-air vehicle for the 90-minute safari, taking photos on an iPhone and peering through binoculars for a closer look at zebras, giraffes, impalas, sleeping rhinos and hippos bobbing in water.

She also visited a site where 105 tons of ivory was burned as part of an effort to discourage the trade. Ivory can only be extracted from elephants after they have been killed.

Back at the orphanage, Mrs. Trump left the same way she arrived.

After an outdoor book reading session, she was encircled by the same children she led up the driveway as they sang and danced some more. The first lady was quickly encircled by the gleeful children and she smiled and danced some more.