A Visit To The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust
While we stayed in Nairobi we visited The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Elephant orphanage in the outskirts of the city. The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust work for the conservation, preservation and protection of wildlife, employing measures ranging from anti-poaching and enhancing community awareness, to providing veterinary assistance to animals in need and rescuing and hand rearing elephant and rhino orphans, along with other species that can ultimately enjoy a quality of life in the wild. While we were there, we adopted young Kamuk, who came to the orphanage in 2013 as a newborn.
At the heart of the DSWT’s conservation activities is the Orphans’ Project, which has achieved world-wide acclaim through its hugely successful elephant and rhino rescue and rehabilitation program. The Orphans’ Project exists to offer hope for the future of Kenya’s threatened elephant and rhino populations as they struggle against the threat of poaching for their ivory and horn, and the loss of habitat due to human population pressures and conflict, deforestation and drought.
Once a day, the orphanage arranges a viewing of the orphaned elephants in the shelter for tourist. The spectacle serves a double purpose. First, the entrance fee, merchandise and optional adoption program gives the centre much needed income – rescuing and raising a baby elephant until it can be reintroduced to the wild is very expensive. Secondly, the trust aims to educate tourist about the plight of these creatures and raise awareness of the responsibility we all have to do what we can to help avoid their extinction.
When we arrived in the morning, a group of people were already gathering at the entrance. Finally we were let in and guided through the compound towards a large field encircled by a rope fence. In the middle there was a small waterhole, and scattered around were big blue buckets of water. We moved to the far end, close to the water hole and waited in the baking sun for the big moment, when the baby elephants would be guided into the field by their keepers, bottle fed milk and allowed to drink and play around in the water.
When the first tiny elephants were let in, a wave of excitement swept across the crowd. It’s impossible not to be charmed by these wobbly cute animals as they stagger away, waving their little trunks, stumble, slide in the mud and bump into each other.
When the keepers took out the big bottles of milk, the animals could hardly contain their excitement, but the keepers know how to make them behave. The elephants look absolutely adorable as the keepers lift their trunks up and let them drink from the bottle. The youngest of them, some as little as a few weeks old, were led to a blanket hanging from a rack, and the bottle was presented to them from under the blanket to simulate the feeling of safety they felt suckling their mother. One of the keepers spoke through a speaker, telling us the name of each animal and the often dramatic and heartbreaking stories of how they came to the shelter.
He described in terrible but effective detail the results of poaching, where sometimes hole groups of animals are killed and left to rot – horribly disfigured as their trunks have been brutally removed from their bodies. Any younger, tuskless members of the group will simply be left behind, alone and traumatized. Finally the keeper delivered an important and heartfelt appeal to all present to do what they can to help raise awareness of the situation, and to avoid supporting the deadly ivory trade. The message is as simple as it is imperative: Do not, under any circumstances, buy or allow anyone you know to buy anything that is made from Ivory.
After about an hour the young elephants were led out of the field and back to their homes inside the compound. On the way out, many of the visitors had gathered at the adoption desk to sign up. It is all perfectly organised, you can browse little cards with pictures of the different individuals, their names and stories, and choose one you’d like to adopt. Beate chose Kamok. Kamok had apparently just walked into a conservancy a year ago. While most of the orphans have lost their family to poachers, Kamok had likely been abandoned because of her weak health.
She was new born, very unstable on her legs, and in search of food and comfort, and was picked up by DSWT and flown to the orphanage while on a drip to help her regain her strength. Upon signing up and paying the $50 for the first year, we received an envelope containing a certificate and information about the orphanage and Kamok. Later we will receive updates by e-mail on Kamok’s progress as she is rehabilitated over the next three years and finally reintegrated into the wild herds of Tsavo National Park.
Elephants have roamed the wild for 15 million years and today this iconic species faces their biggest threat to survival due to continued ivory poaching. As long as there is a demand for ivory, elephants will be continued to be killed for their tusks. Today it is estimated up to 36,000 elephants are killed annually, that’s one life lost every 15 minutes, a record high leading conservationists to estimate their extinction by 2025 if urgent action is not taken.
Here are some good reasons to rescue the elephant from extinction:
- In some countries of Africa elephants have already been driven to extinction.
- Communities across Africa are dependent on elephants for an income through tourism.
- Elephants are a keystone species. Other animals, plants and entire ecosystems rely on them for survival.
- Elephants are known as ‘nature’s gardeners’, plants and trees rely on elephants to disperse their seeds far and wide through their dung.
- By uprooting trees to feed, they control the tree population leaving grasses to thrive and sustain animals such as wildebeests and zebras.
- Elephants share the same emotions and cognitive behavior as humans. They grieve for their lost loved ones, they feel fear, joy and empathy and are highly praised for their intelligence.
Paraphrased from iWorry.org
David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust
Born from one family’s passion for Kenya and its wilderness, the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust is today the most successful orphan-elephant rescue and rehabilitation program in the world and one of the pioneering conservation organisations for wildlife and habitat protection in East Africa.
Founded in 1977 by Dr. Dame Daphne Sheldrick D.B.E, in honour of the memory of her late husband, famous naturalist and founding Warden of Tsavo East National Park, David Leslie William Sheldrick MBE, the DSWT claims a rich and deeply rooted family history in wildlife and conservation.
To date the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust has successfully hand-raised over 150 infant elephants and has accomplished its long-term conservation priority by effectively reintegrating orphans back into the wild herds of Tsavo, claiming many healthy wild-born calves from former-orphaned elephants raised in their care.