Who is David Sheldrick?
Major David Sheldrick was a Kenyan farmer and park warden who transformed Tsavo’s eastern sector into Kenya’s largest and most famous national park. He was one of the first to study the elephant's movement and feeding patterns. Along with his wife, Daphne he rescued and hand-reared vulnerable elephants, rhinos and antelopes. David Sheldrick died in 1977, at the age of 57.

Dr. Dame Daphne Sheldrick

Who is Daphne Sheldrick?
Dr. Dame Daphne Sheldrick is David Sheldrick’s wife, an international authority on the rearing of wild creatures and the first to successfully hand rear a newborn African elephant orphan.  She founded the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in her husband’s memory after his death. She’s also the author of Love, Life and Elephants: An African Love Story, her memoir.

Where is the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust?
The elephant orphanage is located at the Nairobi National Park. They're open to visitors from 11 -12 am each day. When the orphans are 3 and able to feed themselves, they’re transferred to Tsavo East National Park where there are two holding centres. From there, they can meet and mingle with the wild elephants.

What does the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust do?
It assists and advises the Kenyan Wildlife Service. The trust manages a very successful orphan’s program for elephants and rhinos, integrating them back into Kenyan wildlife. So far, the program has successfully hand raised over 150 infant elephants, reintegrating them into the wild herds of Tsavo.

Why are there so many orphan elephants?
Throughout the late 70’s, 80’s and into the 90’s the elephant herds of Tsavo were plundered by poachers looking to harvest the elephants ivory tusks. Herd numbers fell dramatically from 20,000 to 6,000.  As only adult elephants have tusks, poachers often leave their babies behind to starve.

In 2012, 36,000 elephants were killed, one every 15 minutes. At that rate, African elephants will be extinct by the year 2025.

The international trade in ivory was finally banned by CITIES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) in 1990, but it was a very controversial decision particularly for countries in southern Africa who have fought the ban. Unfortunately in recent years,  the illegal poaching of elephants is increasing fuelled by a growing market for ivory in China. According to the Sheldrick Foundation, roughly 36,000 elephants were killed in 2012 alone, one every 15 minutes. At that rate, African elephants will be extinct in the wild by 2025.

How many African elephants are left?
Exact numbers are unknown but it appears that elephant numbers have plummeted in recent years.  An organization called Elephants Without Borders is leading a great elephant census. A fleet of 18 aircraft will spend two years flying over 13 sub-Saharan countries to conduct the first aerial headcount of Africa’s elephants and take photographs of every herd.

How many wild elephants are there at Tsavo?
According to a census conducted in 2011, the population of elephants at Tsavo is about 12,000.  Poaching is illegal in Tsavo and the area is patrolled by Kenya Wildlife Service rangers. But the elephants are still not safe. As recently as September, 2013 three poachers were killed in an armed encounter with authorities. They were suspected of killing a family of 11 wild elephants.

What about the rhinos?
The black rhino is a critically endangered species.  They are also hunted for their horns,  leaving behind many orphans. So far, the Sheldrick Foundation has successfully reared 10 of them.

A baby elephant with its keeper

Why has the David Sheldrick Trust been successful at raising elephants?
Baby elephants are completely dependent on their mother’s milk for a full two years – and it was difficult to find a formula that matched the nutritional qualities of a mother’s milk. Through decades of trial and error, Daphne Sheldrick finally perfected the correct combination of human baby formula and coconut that worked with the smallest of babies.

Dame Sheldrick also learned that the babies are highly dependent on their mothers and family group for nearly a decade. A team of keepers and other elephants is essential in recreating the family structure that exists in the wild. Without it, even well-fed orphans will die of lonliness.

What can I do to help?

  • Don’t buy, sell or wear ivory. (Support the iworry campaign)
  • Support elephant habitat by buying fair-trade coffee or wood that has been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.
  • Don’t attend circuses that exhibit elephants or go an on elephant-back safari.  Both create unbearable situations for the elephants.
  • Ensure that your local zoo does not import elephants from the wild. Elephants don’t reproduce or survive well in captivity.
  • Support elephant conservation efforts like the David Sheldrick Trust and others.

Visit the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust website to find out how to donate or how to foster an orphaned elephant. 


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