The unspoiled savannahs of Kenya are renowned as an untamed wilderness. Left unchecked, nature would take its course and species would thrive and falter as they may. But many animals are vulnerable to human interference such as poaching, loss of habitat due to human encroachment, deforestation and drought. These all threaten populations—and nature’s balance—leaving newborns as orphans and herds at risk. That’s where two remarkable organizations come in to play, and you’ll visit them in a small group during our Kenya Safari Exploration.
Nurturing Orphans Back into the Wild
It is not uncommon for the passionate and caring staff of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT) to encounter baby elephants alone in the bush. In many cases, they have wandered from their families, victims of poaching; the little calves have been spared because they have not yet developed ivory tusks. The story is told time and again, which is why the DSWT developed the Orphans’ Project, the most successful orphan-elephant rescue and rehabilitation program in the world.
The adorable little elephants are brought to the Trust’s farm-like clinic, fed a steady diet, and taught skills by the staff that they will never learn from their mothers and aunts, all while being eased out of the trauma of loss. It is a remarkable thing to witness as these miniature beasts bond with staff, following them wherever they go.
Since its founding, DSWT has successfully reared some 150 elephants and reintegrated them into the wild. In fact, many wild-born calves are reared in the wild by elephants that were nurtured back to health at the clinic, a hopeful note that the work they do has fostered entire generations.
Elephants are not the only focus of DSWT. Black Rhinos, also prized for their tusks, are also raised at the clinic. The Trust’s efforts also include anti-poaching initiatives, protecting the natural environment, raising community awareness, animal welfare and veterinary services to wild animals. Founded in 1977, it is one of the pioneering wildlife conservation organizations in East Africa.
Saving a Threatened Giraffe
Nearby, the Giraffe Center, part of the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife, has similar goals to support the preservation of the endangered Rothschild’s giraffe. It is thought that just several hundred of these majestic creatures remain in the wild, and you just might spot some during your game drives at Lake Nakuru National Park, distinguishable by their creamier-colored coat and the “white stockings” above their hooves. Curiously, the Rothschild’s is also the only species to have five ossicones on its head, the stubby antler-like horns. (Most other species only have two.)
Founded in 1979 as a breeding center, the Giraffe Center today is also an educational center for Kenyan youth. Their vision is to create a harmonious relationship between man and nature by raising awareness among the next generation. This is no small task considering the vast natural resources and wildlife that Kenya hosts. But all of the center’s programs are offered to schoolchildren free of charge, so we can hope that this brings greater access, and with it much success.
The focal point of the center is the giraffe feeding platform, a raised structure that lets you meet these gentle giants at their level. Inside, an auditorium offers talks to guests. And it is all charmingly decorated with artwork created by local schoolchildren – inspired by the giraffes, of course!
The small group size of our Kenya Safari Exploration lets us experience these remarkable places at their fullest. We hope you’ll visit them with us.