The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust is a small charity, established in 1977 to honour to memory of a famous Naturalist, David Leslie William Sheldrick MBE, the founder Warden of Tsavo East National Park in Kenya, where he served from its inception in 1948 until his transfer to Nairobi in 1976 to head the Planning Unit of the newly created Wildlife Conservation and Management Department. David died 6 months later but his legacy of excellence and the systems he installed for the management of Tsavo and wildlife generally in Kenya, particularly in the sphere of wildlife husbandry and ethics, lives on.
Charitable Status and How the Trust Operates
Since its inception, the Trust has remained true to his principles and ideals, its modus of operation overseen by 6 competent and well versed Trustees assisted by an Advisory Committee of practical Naturalists with a lifetime experience of wildlife, local environmental conditions and the history of conservation in this country. In 2004 the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust attained US Charitable status enhancing its corporate funding capability under the guidance of the U.S. based Friends of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, all whom work on a voluntary basis.
On 9th June 2004 it was incorporated as a Charitable Company Limited by Guarantee in the U.K. and granted charitable status by the Charities Commission, its Charity No. 1103836. A Company Limited by Guarantee retains the overall jurisdiction of the Trust’s existing Trustees over the disbursement of funds generated in the U.K.
The first young elephant orphans of Tsavo were “Samson”, a two year old baby bull orphaned during drought conditions in 1952 and “Fatuma”, a two year old baby female orphaned by poachers soon afterwards during the same year. There followed many others over the subsequent early years of David Sheldrick’s 30 years as Warden of Tsavo East National Park, but the only orphans to survive were either just below or at two years old.
The hand-rearing of a fully milk dependent infant elephant (i.e. under two years of age) was something that eluded the Sheldrick’s for 28 years since an infant elephant is milk dependent for at least the first two years of life, and those that survive in a wild situation without access to milk between the age of 2 and 3, are few. This has been established by the scientific monitoring of the Amboseli population for the past 30 years.
The composition of the fat content of elephants’ milk is very different from that of cows’ milk, added to which evidence suggests the actual protein and fat composition of elephants’ milk varies during different stages of lactation to cater for the growing needs of a baby. This means that two years is a very long time to be reliant on an artificial substance that is not identical to mother’s milk, especially in view of the fact that Nature has made infant African elephants exceedingly fragile; they can be fine one day and dead the next and one can never be sure that a calf will survive until it is past its second birthday. The hand-rearing of orphaned elephants is an emotional roller-coaster for those involved, for tragedy stalks success and can strike unexpectedly at any moment.
All the elephant orphans raised by the Trust are gradually rehabilitated back into the wild elephant community of Tsavo National Park when grown, a transition that is made at their own pace and in their own time, but usually taking approximately eight to ten years. A number of our ex Nursery orphans have now had wild born young which they have brought back to show their erstwhile human family, and others are now pregnant and living free, yet keeping in touch with those who are still Keeper dependent. Amongst these are many orphaned too young to have any recollection of their elephant mother or family.
Visit the orphans
A visit to the Elephant Orphanage to meet the orphans and learn more about the project is a delightful addition to any Kenya safari.
For more information see our Excursion Packages and Rates