David Sheldrick Wildlife Orphan Trust
When I was a young boy, my friends dreamt of becoming firefighters or soccer stars. I was a bit different... I always wanted to be Tarzan. Photography turned out to be my calling, but after all these years, my love for African wildlife has remained. I met my dear friend Raabia Hawa in 2010 on a trip to Kenya. I’m now visiting for the third time, and I’m grateful to have reconnected with Raabia and her family, who graciously tell me each time I come, “our home is your home!”
Raabia has dedicated her life to protecting local wildlife. She is involved in several wildlife projects, all who raise funds to save the lives of these precious animals. She is currently in the process of starting her own wildlife foundation called Walk With Rangers. Six years ago, I found myself on an anti-poaching patrol with her for the very first time – a once in a lifetime experience.
Yesterday, Raabia took me to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, an organization who provides a safe space for orphaned baby elephants to grow and thrive before being reintroduced into the wild. More than 90% of these young elephants come here because their mothers have been killed by poachers for their ivory. Sadly, it is very seldom these days for an elephant to die a natural death in the bush.
Each youngster at DSWT has his or her own keeper, who takes on the roll of the mother. These keepers stay with the baby elephants for four to five years, 24 hours per day, 7 days a week. The keepers even sleep with the elephants each night in their stable! Can you imagine? After four or five years, when the elephants are more stable and independent, they intuitively choose when to return to the wild where the will spend the rest of their lives.
It was such a privilege to get so close to the animals as the elephants aren’t very used to interacting with strangers. My experience was truly indescribable. It’s difficult to understand why the demand for ivory is so high, when the result of this high demand is the loss of thousands of these majestic creatures per year. The problem mostly stems from China, where the lack of education surrounding the harm to these elephants and media censorship keep this illegal market thriving. The Chinese typically believe that the ivory taken from the elephants simply grows back, which is obviously bullshit!
Check this documentary for more information: THE IVORY GAME
My deepest respect goes to all of the rangers who risk their lives daily worldwide to protect elephants, rhinos, whales, orangutans and many other species from senseless slaughter.
To donate to Raabia’s foundation, please click here: RAABIA HAWA FOUNDATION