Amidst the global crisis, our efforts in Kenya persist, undeterred by the prevailing challenges.
Despite adversity, our commitment to nurturing orphaned elephants, preserving vast wild expanses, and safeguarding endangered wildlife remains steadfast.
The Heart of the Matter: Creating Matriarchs
As my father, David Sheldrick, often emphasized, understanding animals is an ongoing discovery. Elephants surround Mer. Extraordinary nature amazes me.
The orphaned elephants we care for, over 160 strong, share unique survival stories, torn from their families due to tragic circumstances.
Despite their painful pasts, these elephants form profound bonds with human caretakers and fellow orphans, creating enduring familial connections.
A Woman’s Dedication
Our founder, Dame Daphne Sheldrick, undertook the arduous task of raising orphaned elephants.
Baby elephants, delicate and requiring years to understand, posed a challenge.
Daphne’s dedication led to a groundbreaking solution: Eleanor, an elephant born in 1959, became a mentor. Eleanor’s influence paved the way for other orphans to follow her lead.
Lessons from the Wild
While Daphne provided love and care, wild intricacies required an understanding beyond human capabilities.
Eleanor’s role as a mentor was pivotal, and subsequent female elephants continued the tradition.
The nurturing behavior observed, akin to wild elephants, emphasized the importance of physical affection for young orphans.
The Role of Matriarchs
Thriving elephant herds have wise matriarchs. Our orphans, lacking genetic guidance, choose leaders based on nurturing qualities. Ex-orphan older females step up, and the selection seems natural.
These females exhibit leadership qualities from the Nursery stage, either ingrained in their genes or developed over years of compassionate care.
Resilience in the Face of Nature
During a severe drought in 2017, our ex-orphans, led by Emily, ventured over 100 kilometers to find sustenance.
Despite challenges, including the presence of a newborn, Emily’s herd arrived in remarkable health. Their survival showcased the intelligence and leadership of our ex-orphans.
Building Connections in the Wild
Our orphans form bonds with wild elephants, which is essential for navigating the vast Tsavo landscape.
Ex-orphan herds, lacking natural compositions, have an elected matriarch and ‘adopted’ sisters. These herds, while transitioning to the wild, never forget their roots.
Mentoring the Younger Generation
Like Eleanor years ago, ex-orphans return to mentor younger orphans.
As the younger ones transition to independence, ex-orphans are crucial in guiding them, ensuring a smooth transition.
Future Matriarchs Unveiled
The potential for future matriarchs is promising. Elephants like Lima Lima, Mbegu, and Olare showcase leadership abilities, displaying resilience and developing into capable matrons despite tragic circumstances. Witnessing these awe-inspiring stories unfold is the ultimate miracle.