THE DAVID SHELDRICK WIDLIFE TRUST (CONSERVATION IN ACTION)
Many Kenyans in the streets of Nairobi have no idea about the dedication and conservation work undertaken by the Sheldrick trust which is today the most successful orphan elephant rescue and rehabilitation program in the world and one of the pioneering conservation organizations for wildlife and habitat protection in East Africa or even that there are elephants within Nairobi National Park, the park is too small to house wild elephants because they require quite a huge home range bearing in mind their destructive way of feeding and their huge appetites but there are elephants here, young little baby elephants this are orphaned elephants rescued victims of mainly poaching and human wildlife conflict in terrible state of emaciation and distress, this one of a kind rescue center for orphaned elephants is called The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT).
My encounters with the DSWT started back in 2012 while I was on internship at the African Fund For Endangered Wildlife (AFEW) commonly known as the Giraffe Center undertaking Tour Guiding and administration from the Wildlife Clubs of Kenya on a weekly basis I would get to accompany young children for fully funded ecological trips majorly from underprivileged schools in the marginal areas or children’s home by AFEW, I used to look forward to bringing these young children and five years later I got to experience firsthand the phenomenal work the rescue teams undertake on almost a daily basis, it was on a Monday 6th March 2017 Tsavo east National park with the company of students from the Wildlife clubs of Kenya undertaking various diploma courses in the field of conservation ranging from wildlife, tourism and tour guiding and as their field guide for the southern tourist circuit I was really enthusiastic to not only inspire but equip the trainees with knowledge, skills and attitudes to enable them to not only identify flora and fauna in the various study areas but also nature interpretation.
We had left the Voi safari lodge for our afternoon game drive when we noticed something quite peculiar at a water point and at a closer look it was an elephant calf trying to find its way out from the muddy water, for hours we watched as elephants came to drink water and as they left the little one tried to follow but could not make his was out his little feeble legs and the slippery edges could not allow him to come out by himself, the safari drivers who came by told us that the calf had been there for now almost two days and as much as I was super angry at them for not reporting the incident I knew leaving him there was not an option.
I called a friend of mine who was my classmate back in campus an education officer at Tsavo east Joyce Musimbi and explained to her the situation on the ground she told me to stay put as she communicates with the patrol and rescue team from the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, I called her after a few minutes to check on the progress the call went straight to voicemail which is quite the norm poor network coverage in the wilderness my next speed dial was Edwin Lusichi the head keeper at the Nairobi nursery, he contacted the team at Tsavo and called back to tell me that Joyce had already contacted them and are on the way by this time the little calf was now at the center of the pond and only the tip of the trunk could be seen emerging from the muddy water, it was then that I realized that the calf was drowning I couldn’t just sit back and watch it was quite an open area I just sprang out and into the water we went in and within a matter of seconds we got the calf out.
At this point the rescue team was rushing in and could actually see them from a far and by the time we got the little one out they were there to take over, I received a call from Angela Sheldrick who sounded quite shaken about the news especially learning that the calf had spent a night alone in the pond, I had to reassure her by sending pictures that though he was quite emaciated and had very red eyes he would survive, the vets and rescue team took over and I felt some relieved as they ferried him off since it was already getting dark and I knew he was in safe hands.
He was taken to the orphanage the next day and a week later once I was back in Nairobi I had to go check on him though I was calling Edwin regularly for updates, in the company of David Wanyama a senior lecturer at the Wildlife Clubs of Kenya College we went to the orphanage to check on him in the late afternoon before nap time, he had been given the name "Bahati" Swahili for luck for he truly was the lucky one to survive such an ordeal, he was already showing signs of recuperation though he was still feeble and his eyes were still reddish, had a blanket on him to keep him warm after taking his milk he was tucked in and he fell asleep.
After each orphan rescue, the long and complex process of rehabilitating begins at the nursery (elephant orphanage) nested within Nairobi National Park.It is here that the milk-dependent elephant calves are cared for and healed both emotionally and physically by the dedicated team of elephant keepers, the orphans are not assigned to a specific keeper so all keepers take care of them collectively because they don’t want them to get used to only one person , each elephant remains at the Nursery until they are ready to make the journey to one of two rehabilitation stockades at Voi or Ithumba in Tsavo East National Park, this is after the calves are no longer milk dependent. The Ellie’s are moved to Tsavo after three years
This second phase of rehabilitation at the Tsavo stockades proudly proceeds and sees to each elephant orphan’s gradual transition back into the wild herds of Tsavo, taken at each individual’s own pace over a period of up to ten years, in which time they grow to be part a much loved human-elephant family, finally living their lives free in the wild.
To date the DSWT has successful hand-raised over 190 infant elephants and has accomplished its long term conservation priority by efficiently reintegrating the orphans back into the wild.
The amount of work put in place by the dedicated team of keepers is phenomenal and since its inception the DSWT has delivered outstanding results by leading the way in single species conservation, and in doing so has evolved into a multi-dimensional conservation body ready to meet the growing challenges faced by Kenya’s threatened wildlife and habitats, with the value of ivory and rhino horn increasing due to an insatiable demand, both elephant and rhino are under threat like never before.
To combat these devastating poaching activities which are in a constant rise, the DSWT operates nine fully-equipped Anti-poaching units working together with the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS). It sustainably supports the Kenya wildlife service in managing and protecting the country’s wildlife and wild habitats through many different projects including electric fencing and infrastructure as well as water resource. DSWT embraces all measures that complement the conservation, preservation and protection of wildlife. These include; enhancing community awareness, addressing animal welfare issues, providing veterinary assistance to animals in need.
The elephant nursery located within the Nairobi National Park is easily accessed through the central workshop gate opposite Multimedia University. At the moment it is home to around 28 orphans and is open to the general public and tourists for one hour everyday strictly between 11-12 for only 500 Kenya shillings or 7 USD fixed rate for residents and non residents. Set a date to visit these orphans and hear the stories behind each of them how they became orphans ending up being hand raised by this team of dedicated keepers. If you take part in their journey by fostering one of them you will be posted on the keepers diary until it has been released back into the wild .
Education, awareness and global action are key to stopping the demand for ivory which is fueling the slaughter of elephants. Consumers of these ivory products (white gold) need to be engaged in such awareness campaigns for them to understand that the decisions you make of buying of these ornaments to impress someone as a gift affects the lives of ordinary people thousands of miles away in countries you may never visit.
TRIBUTE TO BAHATI
Though nothing can bring back the hour of splendor in the grass or glory in the flower, we will grieve not rather find strength in what remains behind . We have a unique status among things on this planet, and morality only applies to us. little Bahati who was less than two years moths later at the orphanage we lost him, I feel disappointed and pissed off at the tour drivers who saw the poor calf stranded in the pool as their clients took pictures of him and just left had taken the initiative to report the incidence to any of the KWS rangers or call KWS Hotline number 0202587435 or to anyone at the lodges where they spent the night he could have been rescued much earlier and have better chances of survival
Unless someone like you care a whole awful lot about the plight of elephants and rhinos, Nothing is going to get better it’s not, when we begin to see the animal kingdom as our kindred spirit to which we belong, we may then begin to love and care for it in our little ways, the sole threat to elephant populations is human greed, habitat loss and political conflicts in some parts of central Africa follows soot.
Success in conservation depends on how ready people are to do conservation: conservation cannot be left to conservation organization conservationists" conservation is far more than about wildlife.
Our wildlife is our heritage and its about time that we ordinary citizens take lead in matters of protecting our unique wildlife heritage
BECOME AN ELEPHANT AMBASSADOR
Everyone has a stake in conserving elephants and rhinos, 40 years ago we had all the warning sighs for the Rhinos today we have them for the elephants if we don’t stop the killings its eventually going to be just us humans left as the last animals, we must come together if we are to successfully educate and inform people as to the existence of the illegal ivory trade, the devastating toll it is having on elephant populations and through that, call on governments from around the world to take proactive steps to tackle this illicit trade and save elephants.
We cannot afford to be the generation that wipes out elephants to extinction. The loss of elephants in the wild, an iconic, intelligent and social species, would not only make the world a lesser place it would have serious environmental and economic repercussions.
When the buying stops, the killing can too, you can become part of the change visit the nursery at Nairobi and once you hear their stories you will understand where my inspiration comes from join our global community for wildlife warriors and ambassadors through petitions, public marches, joining conservation organizations and social media #iworry campaign visit www.iworry.org for more details on how to get involved
If you are not radiant with joy and friendliness, if you are not filled with overflowing love and goodwill for all beings and all creatures and all creation, one thing is certain: You will never know true happiness.
|Mud bath at the Nairobi Nursery|
|Minutes after his rescue|
|Arrival of the DSWT rescue team and Vets|
|Bahati at the Nursery|
|One of the orphans with a spear wound on the head|