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Amboseli National Park: Lemoyian
Amboseli National Park, formerly known as Maasai Amboseli Game Reserve, is a 392 km2 (39,200 hectare) conservation area at the core of a wider 8,000 km2 (800,000 hectare) ecosystem, which spans the Kenya – Tanzania border. The name Amboseli comes from the Maasai place name, Empusel, meaning ‘salty, dusty place’. The Park itself is encompassed within a Pleistocene lake basin, formed when lava flows from an erupting Kilimanjaro blocked off the course of the Pangani River, creating a lake, which is now the Amboseli basin. Over the course of time the lake dried up although the basin is still prone to seasonal flooding. The flat topography of the basin is broken in only a few places by a number of small extinct volcanic vents known as Lemomo, Ositeti, Kitirua, Ilmberishari and Nomatior. To the south the land rises steadily toward Kilimanjaro, while to the North the park is clearly bounded by the shores of the Pleistocene lake. In 1883, Joseph Thompson was the first European to penetrate the feared Maasai region and he was astonished by the fantastic array of wildlife and the contrast between the arid areas of the dry-lake bed and the oasis of the swamps; a contrast that persists today. The National Park and abutting Game Reserve embody five main wildlife habitats. There are open plains; stands of yellow-barked acacia woodland and doum palm groves; swamps and marshes fed from the melting snows of Kilimanjaro; rocky lava strewn thorn-bush country; and, at the north western end of the Reserve, the massif Oldoinyo Orok (Namanga Hills) that rises to over 8,300 ft and which is still, for the most part, zoologically largely unexplored.
Amboseli National Park is wholly inside Kenya’s borders and is world famous, not only for its scenic beauty with towering Mount Kilimanjaro as a backdrop, but also for its largely undisturbed elephant population; the only elephant population on the entire African continent that has not suffered massive ivory poaching and whose family structure is still largely intact. Numbering just over 1,000 individuals, this elephant population has provided the baseline for elephant research for the past 28 years, in a detailed study where every individual is known and its life documented by resident Scientists who monitor their lives on a daily basis. Everywhere, the landscape is dominated by snow-capped Kilimanjaro, which at 19,340 ft is Africa's highest mountain and a fitting backdrop to this important wild region where the pastoral Masai people and their cattle have mostly coexisted in harmony with wild creatures for many a century.
The area is classified as semi-arid savanna receiving between 200-400 mm of rainfall each year. Rainfall is concentrated in two rainy seasons, March-April and November-December. Melting snows and rainfall on Kilimanjaro percolate through the porous soil into an extensive subterranean aquifer, reemerging in the basin as series of permanent swamps. Two large swamps, Longinye and Enkongo Narok, transect the basin and numerous smaller swamps surface in the central and western parts of the park. The swamps are the life-blood of Amboseli and are home to a myriad of species of animals. Thus, the Amboseli basin and Amboseli National Park constitute a dry season concentration area for migrating species of the surrounding Amboseli ecosystem. Amboseli offers some of the best opportunities to see African wildlife because the vegetation is sparse due to the long dry months. In addition to the African elephant, Amboseli National Park is home to many other species, including cape buffalo, impala, lion, cheetah, spotted hyena, giraffe, zebra and wildebeest, among other African animals.