I recently finished reading the fascinating memoir of Dame Daphne Sheldrick, the Kenyan woman of British descent who saved orphaned elephants in Kenya for decades. Her husband, David Sheldrick, was the founding warden of Tsavo, Kenya’s largest National Park. Dame Daphne was instrumental in setting up the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, an organization still thriving today. Click here for the DAVID SHELDRICK WEBSITE. Individuals can foster elephants in the foundation’s care, either for themselves or as gifts for others. You can choose among the elephants in their care.
Dame Daphne, through a series of heartbreaking trials and errors, discovered the one formula that orphaned elephant calves can live on. Cow’s milk is incompatible with the elephant’s digestion system. Part of the fostering money collected goes toward purchasing the formula needed for the calves, which is brought in from the UK. By fostering an elephant, you are literally helping to save its life. And it’s only $50 USD a year.
I’m going to link a documentary that was made about the ivory trade and Dame Daphne and David Sheldrick. Before I do, however, I have to warn you that there are several instances of on-screen euthanasia of animals. Poachers would shoot elephants with poison darts that would cause them to suffer long and terrible endings… they could at times suffer for months before they would finally fall dead from the lethal dart injection. David Sheldrick and his team often came across wounded elephants that they would need to take down in order to end their sufferings. This documentary was made in order to force change and enact protections against poachers in Kenya. It is necessarily graphic. You will see dying and dead animals, and partial elephants that were taken down and destroyed for their tusks. Be forewarned before you click on the link that there is some graphic and disturbing footage in this documentary.
There are also some very touching scenes of Dame Daphne nursing animals, and of her menagerie of orphaned animals all shapes and sizes playing together alongside one another. Keep an eye out for the elephant running and frolicking with the ostriches!
SIMON TREVOR’S ‘BLOODY IVORY’ from 1978…
If you foster an elephant with David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, you will be allowed to visit your elephant at the orphanage. They open for visitors and anyone can go, but if you have a fostered elephant you get to stay behind when the public leave.
I visited the orphanage in 2009 when I was in Kenya for a writing retreat. It was magical to see the elephant calves at play. I took some footage… it’s not very good (I promise you it gets less shaky after about the one minute mark!), but it captures what you will see if you happen to find yourself in Nairobi and able to pay a visit yourself.
Here’s my footage of the orphanage from 2009…
You can meet the orphans individually (bios and photos) on the DSWT website at THIS LINK. For as little as $50 USD, you can foster one of these beauties! Sadly, they are still in as much danger today as they were when Dame Daphne was alive and out there every day bringing abandoned orphans back to life.
I highly recommend Dame Daphne Sheldrick’s memoir, Love, Life, and Elephants: An African Love Story. It’s a touching heartwarming and heartbreaking read. The Sheldricks’ legacy is phenomenal…what they did for both elephants and rhinos is nothing short of miraculous and the world is eternally in their debt for it.