1% for the Planet Highlight: ELE’s Elephants and the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

Here at ELE, we love elephants (it’s kind of in the name!) so it was a no-brainer when we had the opportunity to adopt six beautiful elephants at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust as part of our 1% for the Planet membership, and we thought now was a good time to introduce them! 

First off we have Latika. Latika was not only an orphan due to the dry season but she was also a snare victim. She was spotted following behind another herd with the snare cinching around her neck. After successfully removing the snare, the team continued to monitor her and once it became apparent that she was an orphan, they took her to the nursery in Nairobi. Despite her traumatic start to life, Latika has proved to be a fighter and the team at DSWT have high hopes for her future. Find out more about Latika here

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Our next elephant is four year old Roho, which means ‘spirit’ in Swahili. The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) requested the help of DSWT canine team to track down two suspected poachers. It was then that a disturbing report came in from a patrolling aircraft which had sighted a calf standing beside the body of his deceased mother on the top of a steep hill. The team set out at once to help the calf since the helicopter was unable to land. Half walking, half carrying, the team managed to get Roho down the hill and then transported to the nursery. Roho has settled in beautifully in spite of his traumatic situation and enjoys being the centre of attention. Read more about brave Roho’s story here

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Rokka is elephant number three! Her story is more of a saga starting one day during a routine flyover patrol. She was spotted alone near a popular watering hole, pilots searched a 15km radius around her, looking for a herd she may have become separated from but did not see a single other elephant. It was clear at this point that Rokka was an orphan. The window of time for a successful rescue was closing and there were only two pilots. Together, one on foot and one in the air, they managed to approach Rokka and over the course of two hours managed to move her from the dense bush to the waiting helicopter. At this point it became apparent that more bodies were needed in order to help save Rokka. Deciding to split up, Hamish flew off to pick up two Keepers while Roan spent a harrowing 90 minutes restraining Rokka, hoping the commotion would not attract any lions. Once the keepers arrived they managed to carry Rokka through 800m of dense bush and sucking sand, no mean feat! But totally worth it, Rokka is a spunky little girl, who despite her small size, marches around like an elephant twice her size. Though she be but little, she is fierce, springs to mind! Find out more about courageous Rokka here

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Moving onto Mzinga, who was found at just a few months old wandering around on Msinga Hill, a popular spot for herds due to the proximity to the Msinga Springs pipeline. Mzinga was a chance sighting on an evening patrol and it became apparent very quickly that she was all alone and a rescue was greenlighted. She was taken to the nursery the next morning and almost immediately the team had to navigate the dreaded teething stage, a notoriously difficult phase for any elephant calf. Still, Mzinga had a fight in her, her eyes bright and determined even on her worst days and slowly but surely she began to blossom. Often found in a colourful blanket, Mzinga, like Rokka, moves as though she is twice her size, mentoring another little orphaned elephant. A little matriarch in the making and described as the ‘Queen Bee of the Blanket Brigade’. Discover more about Mzinga here

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Mageno is our fifth elephant and a remarkable one at that! Spotted from the air, Mageno was found collapsed and looking worse for wear in the vast landscape. A quick loop around confirmed that this calf was alone. Drought is one of the most challenging times for elephants, and the youngest are the first to suffer. While the circumstances surrounding Mageno are unclear, mothers can find it impossible to produce milk to nourish their calves in times of severe drought. When the team approached Mageno, he struggled to his feet which further sapped his energy. Fearing he wouldn’t make it, Mageno was airlifted to the nursery and embarked upon a precarious journey back to health. On top of his weakened state, Mageno was riddled with parasites, and even though he had already gone through teething, feeding him proved to be a bit of a challenge. Patiently the keepers nursed him, and since he was too weak to joined the bigger herd, he has instead settled into the ‘Blanket Brigade’ where he has become a big brother to two smaller females, and together the three musketeers spend their days cuddling and enjoying mud baths! Find out more about big brother Mageno here.

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Last but certainly not least, we have little Vaarti. One of the most extraordinary stories the team at DSWT have ever witnessed, a real testament to the wonder of elephants’ intuition, empathy and intelligence. Ithumba is where Vaarti’s story begins, a place where orphans graduate from the nursery. A female elephant and a young thin calf were seen striding up to the stockades. Not an unusual sighting since wild elephants were often spotted around Ithumba, but several things were spotted by the keepers. The female elephant had never been seen before, and at eight years old, was far too young to be the calf’s mother. On closer inspection, they determined this to be the case as she was not lactating. The elephant and calf were alone, and after some time, the keepers began to wonder if this calf was an orphan. Their suspicions were confirmed, as the calf, desperate for milk, ran to a crowd of bulls at the watering trough and attempted to nurse from them. When the bulls moved away, the calf’s desperation increased, trying to suckle from the group of other orphans. A KWS warden was called and the female elephant stepped aside, allowing access to the calf. Once a rescue had been greenlighted, the female elephant returned to the bush and was not seen again. She had delivered the calf to safety. Before the calf was transferred to the nursery, the Head Keeper at Ithumba christened him Vaarti, a name meaning ‘luck’ in the language of the local Kamba tribe. A name that proved apt. With the teething stage, Vaarti’s condition worsened and he then developed a serious UTI that was seemingly resistant to all antibiotics. A hail mary antibiotic was given as the team desperately worked to save him. A second miracle was in Vaarti’s future and he made a full and complete recovery. He now spends his days splashing around and napping in the shade. A ray of sunshine to all he encounters, all thanks to the brave female who brought him to safety. Read more about Vaarti here.  

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The work that the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust does on a daily basis is incredible and we feel very proud to be a part of it. All orphans saved give life to generations of elephants. And it’s not just rescuing orphaned elephants, the DSWT also provides life saving treatment in conjunction with the KWS, providing a safe haven for elephants to heal and ultimately re-integrate them into the wild. They also supply protection for wildlife and their habitats with their aerial units, rangers and tracker dogs. The Trust was born from one family’s passion for Kenya, established 45 years ago. Their Orphans’ Project is the first and most successful elephant rescue and rehabilitation programme in the world. They are a pioneering conservation organisation, dedicated to the protection of wildlife and preservation of habitats in East Africa. 

Find out more about how you can support the DSWT’s vital work, whether through donations or adoptions, there are a whole range of ways to get involved. And if you do adopt an orphan, we’d love to hear their story! 

Written by Kirsty McRae

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