The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust embraces all measures that compliment the conservation, preservation and protection of wildlife. Born from one family’s passion for Kenya and its wilderness, DSWT is the most successful orphan-elephant rescue and rehabilitation program in the world. The trust was created in memory of David by his widow, Dame Daphne Sheldrick and is now run by Angela Sheldrick, their daughter. The DSWT has successfully raised over 150 infant elephants and has reintegrated scores of orphans back into the wild.
When an elephant is born, the whole herd works together to raise the young and pass on crucial knowledge about where to find water and food and how to protect each other. There is a high dependency, without which, baby elephants would die from starvation and predation.
Young elephants can be orphaned due to a number of different circumstances, including death of their parents through poaching; disease or drought or sometimes they are separated from their herds by predators; human conflict where they fall into wells and cannot be retrieved by the herd or destroying crops and being injured in retaliation.
Thankfully some of these poor souls are rescued by DSWT and given a fighting chance to survive through the careful nurturing of the Sheldrick team. Their rehabilitation begins at the Nairobi orphanage facility. Here their keepers take on the role of surrogate mothers and along with the other orphans, now represent a “family,” which is critical for an orphan’s development during infancy. Without the stability of this family unit, they risk rejection from the herds when returned to the wild.
Once the orphans have healed psychologically and physically, usually at around the age of two years, they are then ready for the next phase of their rehabilitation at Ithumba in Tsavo National Park. To transport the elephants from the nursery to the rehabilitation center in Ithumba, they have specially designed trucks to make the trip comfortable for them. Whenever nursery elephants head for Ithumba from Nairobi, the ex-guests or ‘ex-orphans’ as they are referred to, always seem to know of their impending arrival and return to the stockade compound to greet them.
There to greet newcomers are also all the keeper-dependent older orphans who have already been relocated from the nursery. The others, who gather around to comfort and reassure them, always lovingly embrace the newcomers. They surround them as they are taken out into the bush to browse and are with them when they go into their communal night stockades.
As they settle in, a gradual change takes place. Rather than following their keepers, at the rehabilitation centers, the elephants begin to make their own decisions about where they want to browse, and the keepers merely follow the elephants. Each elephant, encouraged by the ex-orphans, decides when it is sufficiently confident to make the transition to the wild.
DSWT, however, does much more than just rehabilitating orphaned elephants; including raising the orphans of other species, such as rhinos, helping with anti-poaching efforts, advocating against the ivory trade, and providing medical care to injured animals in the wild. Two of the many projects that DSWT are supporting are the Mwalunganje Elephant Sanctuary and the mobile de-snaring and anti-poaching units in Tsavo, in order to reduce the threats to the wonderful wildlife in the Tsavo National Parks.
Read more about the amazing work being done by this organisation on their website – https://www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org/html/conservation.html