As part of the mission of Pacific Roots Magazine to continuously highlight and feature sanctuaries all over the planet and animal advocacy work, we were honored to have the opportunity to feature an interview with The Sheldrick Wildlife Trust for our site launch.
The Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (SWT) is a conservation charity that works to protect all wildlife and habitats in Kenya. Founded by Dame Daphne Sheldrick DBE in 1977 in memory of her late husband David Sheldrick MBE, the founding Warden of Tsavo National Park in Kenya, they have a deeply rooted family history in conservation.
Best known for their pioneering work in rescuing, raising and reintegrating orphaned infant elephants back into the wild, SWT works to ensure a sustainable future for all wildlife and communities.
Their nine projects consist of: Orphans Project, Mobile Veterinary Units, Anti-Poaching initiative, Saving Habitats, Community Outreach, Aerial Surveillance, Canine Project, Water for Wildlife, Eco Lodges
Because of the foundations laid by Dame Daphne Sheldrick, who was the first person in the world to successfully hand-raise a milk dependent orphan elephant, more than 244 orphaned elephants have been saved and 156 of those have already reintegrated back to the wild. Initially hand-raised at the Nursery, orphans graduate to one of the SWT’s three Reintegration Units when they are old enough, which all are located in protected areas. The Voi Reintegration Unit is the first of their three Reintegration Units that now exist and the Voi stockades were originally built by David Sheldrick and sit behind Daphne and David’s former home in Tsavo, where the Orphans’ Project began.
In addition to its field projects, the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust’s work to raise global awareness of the continued elephant poaching crisis and the effects this is having on the species ultimate survival is highly renowned and directed towards bringing an end to the trade in ivory, legal and illegal, and to save elephants from extinction.
SWT fully documents each orphans’ individual rescue stories so that their supporters can go behind the scenes of each rescue, with images and videos depicting their heart-breaking circumstances and desperate state many of these babies arrive in. SWT shared two stories in particular for us to feature here.
Mbegu’s story: www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org/orphans/mbegu
Mbegu endured horrific brutality before she came into our care after she and her herd were attacked in revenge for the death of a community member. Thankfully a conservancy warden stepped in and went above and beyond to keep her safe until our teams arrived. Having ensured unimaginable trauma, both physical when she was hit with stones and sticks and psychological, Mbegu would be forgiven if she never trusted humans again. However this little baby has a bigger heart than most and embraced her human carers, fully trusting them despite the horrors others meted out. As one of our Keepers puts it, she was born brave and has a fighting spirit and wise nature that belies her age. She’s someone we can all learn from!
Enkesha’s story: www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org/orphans/enkesha
Enkesha was rescued by a SWT/KWS Veterinary Unit after she was found with a nearly severed trunk, the terrible injury caused by a wire snare. What followed was an arduous journey including a three-hour operation to stich her trunk back together by specialists. It took months of painstaking TLC but Enkesha’s trunk slowly healed and today, what remains of her injury is a small hole (as opposed to a gaping, nearly severed trunk) that she can close herself by squeezing the muscles in her trunk together. Incredibly it doesn’t impact her ability to eat or drink and she should be able to return to the wild when grown.
Both orphans above are examples of infants SWT we have rescued suffering from traumatic injuries. Most orphans will fully recover but for those suffering a lasting impact, e.g. their mobility is compromised, we built our Umani Springs Reintegration Unit. This is located in a fully protected area with year-round access to browse and water meaning the orphans here do not have to traverse vast distances during the dry season. Orphans here will reintegrate into wild populations just like at our other centres but in an environment that is better suited for their needs.
Interview with Amie Alden, Communications and Media Spokesperson for the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust
When individuals adopt an elephant, do they received continued updates about the animal’s care and welfare?
Amie: Adopters with the SWT can access updates on their orphans progress in the form of: exclusive Keepers’ Diaries where the orphans’ most recent daily activities and recent images are recorded, access to three high res images of the orphans, collectible monthly watercolours and monthly email updates summarising key highlights from the Orphans’ Project.
Do many people who foster also visit the Nursery in Kenya?
Amie: Our Nursery, located in Nairobi National Park, is open to the public for one hour daily between 11 midday and 12pm for a small entry donation. The visit provides an opportunity for visitors to learn about the work of the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in the rescue and rehabilitation of orphaned elephants and attendees can watch the orphans enjoy a milk feed and mud bath (or soil dusting on cooler days) and listen to one of our Keepers tell the stories of the different orphans in our care.
Current adopters can also arrange to visit at 5pm by strict advance appointment only to see the orphans returning from the forest and being put to bed. Once all of the orphans have returned from the forest, adopters are invited to walk around in the Nursery area, talk with the Keepers and meet the orphans at their stables, some of whom may be finishing their milk as you walk around
As with all our visits, no interaction with the orphans is guaranteed. Visitors cannot feed the orphans or get into the stables with the babies and for the well-being of the orphans, any interaction should always take place at the orphans initiation.
How many Keepers are there at the Sanctuary and do many of them stay on as Keepers through their working life?
Amie: The Trust operates four centres for orphaned elephants; our Nursery in Nairobi National Park, our Voi Reintegration Unit located in Tsavo East National Park; our Ithumba Reintegration Unit located in Tsavo East National Park and our Umani Springs Reintegration Unit located in the Kibwezi Forest. Across these Units, we have more than 100 Keepers who are dedicated to raising orphaned elephants. Several have been with us for many years – our Nairobi Head Keeper Edwin, for example, has been working for the Trust for 20 years.
As SWT has a UK office too can you tell us more about the work on the ground in the UK and awareness raising there (and elsewhere on the globe)?
Amie: Here in the UK, we exist as a contact point for our UK and some of our global supporters so should a supporter hold a bake sale or want to run a marathon in aid of the Trust, we’re here to help to offer advice and any tips if needed. We are constantly amazed at the incredible feats our supporters go to – for instance, in June 299 supporters signed up to run for elephants as part of our annual fun run.
We also help to communicate about our conservation projects, news from the field, successes and appeals for help through social media, emails and in the media. Our staff also organise our iworry campaign and assist corporate supporters that might seek to partner with us. All in all, we’re a team passionate about wildlife that’s always very busy!
Visit The Sheldrick Wildlife Trust at https://www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org/
Interview by Pacific Roots Magazine Editorial Desk