2022 Year-End Letter from Angela Sheldrick

Published on the 8th of December, 2022

In her year-end letter, written in November 2022, Angela Sheldrick reflects on the extraordinary events that came to pass this year and all that was made possible through donor support.

New Beginnings: A Look Back on 2022, from Angela Sheldrick

Dear friends of the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust,

This year marks our 45th anniversary — and what a year it has been. What began as an extended dry season devolved into a large-scale drought across much of Kenya, turning life into a daily struggle for survival.

It has been an extremely challenging time on the conservation front, yet also surreally normal. With nearly half a century of operations under our belt, we are no strangers to adversity. As we grapple with rising field emergencies, an uptick in illegal activities, and an unprecedented influx of orphans, our operations continue like clockwork. Our trusted measures for managing the growing and changing needs of conservation continue to keep pace with whatever is required. And of course, the orphans keep things in perspective: Drought or not, they are still consumed by their love of milk bottles, burgeoning friendships, and the daily dramas that mark any youngster’s life.

With that said, the size of our orphan herd is always a tell-tale indicator of conditions in the field. In the past two years, we have rescued the same number of orphaned elephants as the previous five years combined. Each one has their own special story: At the Nursery, we now have a ‘blanket brigade’ of tiny elephants who have become as close as siblings, from sweet Mageno to feisty Nyambeni. There is Rafiki, who lost his mother to human-wildlife conflict, which is a pervasive symptom of the drought, but he still sought out the help he so desperately needed. Sagateisa came to us quite literally skin and bones, but has already undergone the most remarkable transformation. Neshashi, who you might remember from my last letter, was one of our largest newcomers, requiring a Herculean rescue operation above the parched plains of northern Kenya.

These are but a few of the many faces who entered the fold this year. While fate forever changed the course of their lives, they will still grow up knowing the love of a family. We make a lifetime commitment to each orphan, one that extends far beyond the decade or so they spend in our care. As we raise them through their infancy, we are also working to secure, protect, and expand the wild spaces where they will one day raise their own families.

We have faced drought before, and we will face it again. Even so, it does present its fair share of challenges. To contend with the influx of orphans, we have had to expand our capacity at our Nairobi Nursery, Kaluku, Ithumba, and Umani Units. Our extensive water and supplementary feeding projects have provided a lifeline to countless creatures in drought-stricken areas. Local communities need our support, too, and we are proud to provide daily meals to over 7,000 children through our school food programs. To address the inevitable rise in illegal activities that comes with a drought, we have added seven new SWT/KWS Anti-Poaching Teams to the field, each one ready to be deployed where needed most. Working alongside our partners, we protect more than 2 million acres of wilderness across Kenya. Creating corridors between wild spaces is paramount, especially as disrupted weather patterns mean animals must travel further in search of food and water. Erecting fencelines, like our new Shimba-Mwalungange initiative, secure landscapes for our migratory friends.

Even in a year like no other, there is still plenty of hope to be found. In the past 12 months alone, we have been introduced to 15 calves born to orphans we rescued, raised, and reintegrated back into the wild. Many of these babies’ mothers were orphaned at a time when the future of elephants was looking bleak. However, a lot can change over the course of the decade. Each wild-born baby is a living reminder of the progress that has been made.

Our tally of known wild-born babies currently stands at 53 — and this is just the beginning of a baby boom that will continue to unfold in the coming years. I know that Daphne is smiling down on these new generations, each one a testament of how saving one life can blossom into so many more.

With all its tribulations, I reflect on this year with satisfaction. Our teams were put to the test, but they continue to rise to the challenge magnificently. They put their heart and soul into every task, be it battling a bushfire that threatened to destroy an ecosystem, moving heaven and earth to rescue an orphan, or organising community food donations to support our neighbours through these difficult times. These are the people who are forging a future for Kenya’s wildlife.

You are a vital part of that force. As we celebrate 45 years of conservation work, I would like to thank you for being with us, through good times and bad. Every elephant saved, every landscape secured, every field success story — that is your steadfast support and commitment at work.

And now, we look to the skies and pray for more rain!

Wishing you and yours a joyful holiday season,
Angela Sheldrick

We are enormously grateful for your support, in all its forms, at any time. If you are able and interested in making a contribution to conservation this holiday season, you can donate online or adopt an orphan in our care, as a gift for yourself or someone special. Thank you for allowing us to rise to the challenge, again and again, as we look towards a new year. Happy holidays, from all of us at the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.

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