Saving Elephants: Inside "The Orphan's Project" with The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust
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The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT) is 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. At the heart of their many conservation activities is ‘The Orphans’ Project’. This project offers hope for the future of Kenya’s threatened elephant and rhino population as they struggle against the threat of poaching for their ivory and horn, the loss of their natural habitat due to encroaching human population, conflict, deforestation, and drought.
The ivory trade kills an estimated 36,000 elephants a year. This number does not illustrate the irreversible damage. These massacres leave behind innocent victims as well as wiping out breeding females and males, leaving the elephant population in crisis.
To date, the DSWT has successfully raised by hand over 160 infant elephants and has accomplished its long-term conservation priority by reintegrating the orphans back into the wild. Many former orphaned elephants raised in the care of
Elephants in the nursery
DSWT have born calves in the wild, illustrating the program’s success. Most recently, an alarming number of elephants have arrived at the nursery- most victims of poaching.
In the last 30 days, DSWT has rescued a staggering 16 orphans from the wild. DSWT now has 35 milk-dependant elephants at the nursery, which is the most they have ever had at one time, stretching its resources to the max. Each rescue costs and average of (USD) 2,500, in addition to space needed to provide a safe haven for each new arrival as well as their 24-hour a day care. The elephants rescued by the DWST are reliant upon the Keeper’s care for up to 10 years before they choose to return to the wild. Each elephant requires a stockade, the care of specialist Keepers who stay with the orphans 24 hours a day, providing them with milk formula every 3 hours and additional nutrients and medicines where necessary. The annual cost to care for an individual elephant is (USD) 10,000.
The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust manages an online Fostering Program, allowing anyone to foster a baby elephant and become part of the elephant’s extended human family with a donation of $50 a year. Foster parents receive a personalized certificate, monthly email updates of their elephant, photographs, and more. For more information, go to www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org.