Sheldrick Elephant Sanctuary

Sheldrick Elephant Sanctuary

Sheldrick Elephant Sanctuary

The Sheldrick Elephant Sanctuary was founded in 1977 by wildlife conservationist Daphne Sheldrick and her husband, David Sheldrick, who was the founding warden of Tsavo East National Park in Kenya. After living alongside wild elephants and learning about their complex social structures for over 20 years, the Sheldricks dedicated themselves to caring for orphaned baby elephants who had lost their mothers, often due to poaching or human-wildlife conflict. They pioneered techniques for raising infant elephants as if the keepers were the calves’ lost elephant family. Today, the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust carries on this important work as an orphan elephant rescue and rehabilitation center.

Location of Sheldrick Elephant Sanctuary

The Sheldrick Elephant Sanctuary is located on the outskirts of Nairobi National Park in Kenya. Covering over 250 acres of natural bushland, it provides a safe habitat for rescued orphan elephants to heal, learn from adopted elephant families, and gradually transition back to living in the wild. The sanctuary’s specially designated orphanage facility and animal enclosures are not open to the public, but visitors can attend scheduled visits to see the baby elephants in the nursery as they are bottle-fed by their keepers.

Mission and Purpose of Daphne Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage/Sanctuary

The Sheldrick Elephant Sanctuary exists to rescue, hand-raise, and rehabilitate orphaned baby elephants and rhinos who have lost their mothers. Their goal is to eventually return rehabilitated elephants back to protected wilderness areas through carefully monitored phases. Alongside animal welfare, the sanctuary supports anti-poaching efforts and raises awareness to inspire action around elephant and rhino conservation globally. With specialized expertise in infant elephant care, the Sheldrick Trust provides a vital sanctuary for the most vulnerable elephant and rhino victims of poaching who would otherwise perish.

Rescuing and Rehabilitating Orphaned Elephants

Causes of elephants becoming orphans: The leading cause orphaned elephants at the Sheldrick Sanctuary is due to poaching, where elephant mothers are killed for their tusks. Elephant calves stay dependent on their herds for up to 10 years, and struggle to survive alone if their mothers die. Other common reasons include human-wildlife conflict, where elephants wander into settlements searching for food and mothers may be killed trying to protect their calves. Natural causes like disease or complications during childbirth may also orphan young elephants.

Rescue process: When an orphaned elephant calf is spotted alone in the wild, the Sheldrick team immediately mobilizes into action. A rescue plane is dispatched to guide ground teams located nearby to find the wandering calf. Veterinarians carefully tranquilize the small elephant which is often dehydrated and grieving. It is then flown to the Nairobi nursery for immediate care.

Care of infant elephants

Arriving infants are kept in quarantine and given customized nutritional supplements, fluids and medical treatment if needed. Friendly adult elephants act as role models. Keepers sleep beside the stalls at night, replicating the lost elephant family. Traumatized calves bond deeply with their keepers over bottles of special milk formula. Gentle walks introduce them to their new sanctuary home.

Rehabilitation process

As orphans grow beyond infancy after about age 2, they join a herd of peers and older role models. This socialization and gradual independence mimics wild structures. Under 24-hour watch by guards, they forage in the bush and return to the stockades in the evenings. When mature enough at around 10 years old, these elephants are reintegrated into the wild in protected Kenyan national parks.

Release back into the wild

Rehabilitation culminates in the emotional process of releasing elephants into safe wilderness habitats. Airlifting older elephants in custom crates, the team carefully releases them among wild herds who usually calmly welcome them. Ex-orphans stick together in bonded herds, thriving free from poaching threats while monitored from afar, often revisiting their sanctuary keepers affectionately for years.

The Nursery and Daily Care at Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Elephant Orphanage

The orphaned elephant nursery provides specialized facilities to meet the needs of infant elephants aged newborn to 2 years old. Individual stalls allow for quarantine and bonding between traumatized arrivals and their primary caretakers. Soft sandy floors prevent joint damage as baby elephants learn to walk and play. Outdoors, bushes and trees offer natural shade and foraging stimulation. Nearby enclosures house friendly adult elephants who act as role models for developing orphans before joining a herd.

Daily care routines

Arriving orphan elephants immediately receive rehydration fluids, nutritional supplementation and any needed medical treatment around the clock as they recover from trauma. Keepers sleep in nearby quarters to feed specialized milk formula on demand through the night. During the days, keepers guide the calves on gentle forest walks to build strength while bonding. In the evenings, infant elephants return to their stalls for bottles, blankets and affectionate care from their doting human caregivers.

Baby elephants bonding with keepers

The Sheldrick sanctuary views keepers as the replacement elephant family who must earn the trust of grieving infant arrivals. New elephants form incredibly strong bonds with their human caretakers almost viewing them as surrogate mothers. Keepers shower the vulnerable babies with affection and personalized care, staying by their side day and night until emotionally stabilized. This loving commitment enables keepers to eventually guide the orphans back to independence.

Customized care plans

Behind the scenes, veterinarians and keepers assess each elephant calf and create customized feeding and care plans. Fed specialized milk formulas tailored to their age and health status, keepers track daily intake along with weight gains to ensure proper nutrition and growth. Medical issues, nutritional needs and emotional progress are continually evaluated and care plans updated to nurture each elephant as an individual with their own personality and history. This personalized approach is why the sanctuary achieves an impressive 90% survival rate.

Successes and Impact of Sheldrick Foundation Orphanage

Number of elephants rescued and rehabilitated

Over the past 45 years, the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust elephant sanctuary has successfully rescued, raised and rehabilitated over 260 orphaned elephants and nearly 20 baby rhinos who were victims of poaching or human-wildlife conflict across Kenya. From tiny newborns close to death to older calves, the sanctuary’s kind and expert care has enabled vulnerable baby animals to recover and return to the wild where they bring forth their own offspring.

Success stories of releases

Many rehabilitated elephants remain deeply bonded to the sanctuary that saved them and return to visit their beloved keepers even after living fully wild for years. One heartwarming example is the story of Kamok, rescued in 1987 from a trap with a broken leg at just one week old. After her recovery and release, she gave birth to 7 calves and regularly visited the sanctuary along with her wild-born babies to joyously reconnect with the keepers who hand-raised her decades ago.

Wider impact on conservation

Beyond direct animal rescues, the global awareness created drives wider impact. The sanctuary’s orphan project and anti-poaching teams inspire visitors, donors and partners to become voices for conservation in their communities. Fostering guardianship programs also disperse the message. And tourism dollars from visits and adoptions fund protection programs. Any poaching threats identified also activate government security interventions.

Anti-poaching efforts

The Sheldrick Wildlife Trust runs aerial surveillance and armed ground patrols to deter poaching across the Kenya’s national parks that house released elephants. Intelligence is shared across conservation groups and rangers to coordinate anti-poaching operations. Sniffer dog units also track and apprehend poachers. Community outreach tries preventing poaching from desperation rather than greed through education and poverty relief initiatives enhancing security for elephants.

Visiting the Sheldrick Elephant Trust/Sanctuary

Visitor programs up-close with elephants

The Sheldrick Wildlife Sanctuary offers a one-of-a-kind visitor experience to meet orphaned elephants up-close. During designated public visiting hours, guests can watch the orphaned baby elephants joyfully guzzle down milk bottles and take playful mud baths under the guidance of their doting keepers. Observing the bonds between elephants and humans who have replaced their lost elephant families is a profoundly moving experience. Ticket costs fund the sanctuary’s conservation efforts.

Foster parent program

Lovers of elephants worldwide can become involved as a foster parent of their own chosen orphaned elephant and rhino. Foster parents receive monthly email updates and photos about the progress of rescued baby animals as they journey back to health and eventual life in the wild. This offers a personally rewarding way to learn about the elephants’ unique stories and support their care.

Volunteering opportunities

Dedicated volunteers are welcome to apply for hands-on helper positions at the sanctuary itself. Whether assisting with basic maintenance tasks or shadowing keepers on educational baby elephant care, volunteers gain behind-the-scenes experience while directly contributing to rescue efforts. For qualified veterinary and conservation students, intensive applied programs are also offered to build expertise in managing rescued wildlife rehabilitation sanctuaries across Africa.

Supporting the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

Donation needs

As a non-profit trust, the Sheldrick Wildlife Sanctuary relies on donations from the public to carry out their wildlife rescue and conservation work. Donations help fund the labor-intensive care of orphan elephants, field rescue operations, milk formula purchases, veterinary expenses, sanctuary upkeep and keeper salaries among daily costs. Larger gifts also support anti-poaching patrols, aerial surveillance, community outreach efforts and releasing rehabilitated elephants into protected habitats. Any amount given helps supply the intensive care vulnerable orphaned animals require.

Other ways to provide support

Along with direct donations, people globally can assist the sanctuary in many meaningful ways. Volunteering locally provides crucial manpower. Becoming an orphan elephant foster parent funds care. Social media posts, word-of-mouth and reviews boost credibility and reach across borders. The sanctuary’s handmade beaded bracelets raise money when purchased. Even visiting the sanctuary offers admission fees supporting operations while building emotional connections to compel wider advocacy. Gruelling rescue and rehabilitation work carried out by this non-profit trust is made possible entirely by those who support and spread their message.

Importance of sanctuary’s efforts

The Sheldrick Wildlife Trust elephant and rhino sanctuary provides the only specialized rescue and rehabilitation center for infant wildlife who have lost their mothers to poaching across Kenya. Without this sanctuary’s expert care tailored to orphaned babies’ needs, over 260 rescued elephants and rhinos would have perished before adulthood. Its pioneering techniques and expertise in animal husbandry, nutrition and trauma rehabilitation serve as models across Africa. Released orphans the sanctuary saves go on to breed expanding endangered populations.

When iconic keystone species like elephants and rhinos are decimated by greed, entire ecosystem balances collapse. As conflicts between wildlife and humans escalate with climate pressures, the Sheldrick sanctuary stands as a profoundly hopeful example of compassion in action. From their historic founders to keepers who view calves as their children, all who support this trust enable elephants and rhinos another chance at life. The ripple effects of saving orphaned animals also translate into preserving Africa’s wilderness for future generations. There could not be more important work.