Saving wildlife and wilderness is the responsibility of all thinking people. Greed and personal gain must not be permitted to decimate, despoil and destroy the earth's irreplaceable treasure for its existence is essential to the human spirit and the well-being of the earth as a whole. All life has just one home - the earth - and we as the dominant species must take care of it.'-- Dr. Daphne Sheldrick

Rescuing Orphan Elephants and Other Help for African Wildlife

David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust
Nairobi, Kenya

The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust is a small, heartful charity, established in memory of David Sheldrick, famous naturalist and founding warden of Kenya's giant Tsavo East National Park in which he served from 1948 until 1976.

Since its inception in 1977, the trust has played an important role in Kenya's conservation effort. Now under the direction of Dr. Daphne Sheldrick, the trust has saved over 60 infant elephants that otherwise would have perished. The trust rescues and cares for orphaned and abandoned elephants and reintroduces them into the wild after they are healthy and strong and ready to cope with the demands of herd life. A baby elephant becomes an orphan because of the loss of its mother (from poaching, drought, panic, and human-caused separation).

When a baby elephant is orphaned, it is needy and vulnerable and must be given attention and care comparable to a human baby. When orphan elephants arrive at the trust, they are often traumatized, disoriented and sick. The trust assigns human elephant keepers to replace the lost family, and the babies are attended to 24 hours a day. Hand-rearing is required along with constant touch and communication.

When the babies are strong enough, they are reintroduced to the herds at the nearby Tsavo Reserve (22,000 sq. km southeast of Nairobi). If the herd has not been stressed or harassed or traumatized, it will always accept an orphan. (Mother elephants are naturally caring and love to nurture babies.) To date, the trust has repatriated 26 elephants to their herds, which occurs when the matriarch female accepts the infant.

Quite frequently a repatriated elephant will return on its own to the trust compound for visits with its keepers. This may occur many years after a baby has grown up and rejoined its herd. The elephant never forgets the care and love offered by a keeper.

Programs of The Sheldrick Trust also include an orphanage for abandoned baby rhinos (two at present). Other services include two mobile veterinary units (under the aegis of The Kenya Wildlife Service). Critical care is provided to animals that are snared, shot, impaled with arrows, suffering from infections and involved in birthing crises.

A primary objectives of this project is prompt response to alleviate suffering and distress. Previously, critical time was lost in bringing animals to clinics or transporting a vet to help the animal in situ. By then it was often too late.

Since 1999, seven "desnaring" teams have also been funded and trained by the trust to prevent animals from being illegally trapped in and around Tsavo National Park. The teams patrol the park and visit nearby villages to stem the increase in poaching. The snaring of wild animals, which was once practiced only at a subsistence level, is now "big business" and threatens the existence of many species.

Other trust programs include training in wildlife management, an indigenous tree nursery, an electrical fencing program (for park boundaries), and various water projects within Tsavo National Park. The trust also provides vital field knowledge to professionals on needs and sensitivities of wildlife. In 2006, the trust played a crucial role in exposing the abuse of elephants in Botswana and South Africa.

In 2006, Dr. Daphne Sheldrick was accorded "dame" status by Queen Elizabeth II for her long contributions to elephants and African wildlife. The Sheldrick Trust welcomes contributions, which may include foster-parenting an orphaned elephant.