The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT) is a multifaceted organisation, that does a lot more than raise orphaned elephants and reintroduce them back into the wild.
Founded in 1977, by Dr. Dame Daphne Sheldrick, in memory of her late husband, who was a well known naturalist and founding warden of Tsavo East National Park. DSWT is based in central Nairobi, off Magadi Road next to Nairobi National Park. To date, through their Orphans’ Project, they have successfully hand reared over 150 infant elephants and reintegrated them back into wild herds in Tsavo.
The Orphans’ Project exists to offer hope for the future of Kenya’s threatened elephant and rhino populations as they struggle against the threat of poaching for their ivory and horn, and the loss of habitat due to human population pressures and conflict, deforestation and drought.
Elephant and rhino poaching is a complex problem and is due in part to the poverty and clashes between wildlife and humans, and as such has to be approached on many levels. Simply banning the trade of tusks and horns does not alleviate the basic problems.
Community Outreach Programme
DSWT has a community out reach programme, designed to help educate and build sustainable relationships with local communities bordering Kenya’s National Parks and wildlife protected areas. These programs strive to improve living conditions and educational standards, encouraging communities and the next generations to protect the wildlife environment.
One of many projects the DSWT is subsidizing the funding needed to keep the Mwalunganje Elephant Sanctuary working. The Mwaluganje Elephant Sanctuary project compensates local communities for using their land for wildlife instead of subsistence farming. The money for this up until recently came from the gate fees charged on entrance to the sanctuary. But, as tourism numbers have fallen in recent years to the Mombasa area, the gate fees no longer cover the amount needed to compensate these communities.
Without the compensation these communities will revert back to subsistence farming practises and again be in conflict with the wildlife. DSWT has stepped in to ensure healthy compensation payments are made to the landowners, and such guarantee their continued commitment to preserving their land exclusively to wildlife. DSWT also pays the salaries of the Mwaluganje scouts who help to protect the sanctuary and it’s many elephants.
Other projects include beehive fences and tree planting, supporting schools in Tsavo and community wildlife conflict resolution groups to name but a few.
For over fifteen years, DSWT has been involved in funding and operating mobile de-snaring and anti-poaching units, to try to reduce the threats to the wildlife environment in the Tsavo National Parks. These threats include: rhino and elephant poaching, bushmeat snaring, illegal logging of forested areas, charcoal burning and livestock encroachment. Today, DSWT deploys eight full time anti poaching units, which patrol the boundaries of the greater Tsavo Conservation area (48,656 Km2 ) on foot and by vehicle. This area includes; Tsavo East and West National Parks, Chyulu Hills National Park, samburu Kibwezi Forest Reserve and bordering private and community ranches. These skilled frontline teams are making a significant difference in deterring, prosecuting and preventing poaching, snares and other crimes within the wildlife habitat in this area.
The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust has an Aerial Unit consisting of four aircraft. These are used for low-level aerial monitoring and surveillance. They are based near the Tsavo National Park, and fly primarily throughout the Tsavo Conservation Area (TCA) in support of the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and DSWT anti-poaching and veterinary ground teams.
In partnership with KWS regional authorities locations are identified from the air to combat persistent poaching activities, following which many arrests have been made by KWS, whilst poacher’s hideouts, snare lines and shooting platforms erected over waterholes are sighted and destroyed as are charcoal kilns. Other illegal activities identified from the air include the illegal intrusion of livestock within the Protected Areas, which poses a great threat to the TCA and the future of the environment. Alongside the KWS/DSWT Tsavo and Amboseli Mobile Veterinary Units the Aerial Surveillance Unit is also a vital tool in sighting and monitoring and assisting in the treatment of injured elephants.
Often when elephants are killed for their ivory, baby elephants are left abandoned. The lucky few baby elephants that are found, are taken to the elephant nursery, nestled with Nairobi National Park where the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust have perfected a milk formulae to help nourish these infant elephants. With a thirty year learning curve, DSWT has perfected a formula to raise these orphans, with milk, love and care until such time as the elephant is comfortable amongst wild herds and chooses to become independant. The time involved depends entirely on the individual elephant, each has their own distinct personality – however, all orphans at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust are elephants again and integrated into the wild community by the age of 10 years old.
None of this is possible without the help of many people worldwide, as rearing an infant elephant is an expensive and long term commitment.
Visiting the David Sheldrick Trust Centre Nairobi
The DSWT orphange is open to public viewing daily between 11:00 and 12 noon, when the nursery inmates come for their daily mudbath.
Whilst you visit the orphanage there is also the possibility of “adopting” a baby elephant or making a donation towards their many projects.