Our Year-End Letter

Published on the 6th of December, 2023

In her year-end letter, Angela Sheldrick reflects upon all that came to pass in 2023 and the field-level successes made possible through donor support.

A Path Forward: Reflections on 2023, from Angela Sheldrick

Like those preceding it, this has been another year of intense challenges in the field, but also of enormous successes. While we grappled with great tragedy in our organisation, we were also bolstered by constant reminders of why our work is so vital. As Kenya came back to life after a devastating, two-year drought, we are finally starting to see a path forward.

I would like to begin by remembering three members of the team we lost: Mark Jenkins, Peter Jenkins, and Patrick Muiruri. These men made conservation their life’s work and touched many lives in the process. While we mourn the loss of three irreplaceable souls, their legacy continues to galvanize us and drive us forward.

Our team has always been defined by their commitment, talent, and resilience — and this is especially true in times of adversity. Where many would crumble, they simply shine. Working in the blazing heat to resuscitate a drought-stricken bull, shepherding a herd of elephants back to safety, battling a bushfire before it wipes out an entire ecosystem, distributing school food donations to support our neighbours — whatever the task, no matter how big or how small, they tackle it with absolute dedication. This is how our team makes an impact in the field, every single day.

Such extraordinary dedication is needed now more than ever. Human activities present the single greatest adversary to our natural world. As habitats shrink and resources become scarce, human-wildlife conflict has emerged as one of the greatest threats to elephants.

Tackling this prodigious challenge has become one of our primary focus areas: We have developed productive relationships with local communities, rapidly coordinating an aerial and/or ground response to shepherd elephants back to safety. SWT/KWS Mobile Vet Units treat all manner of patients, including those harmed by human-wildlife conflict, while our rangers respond to field emergencies and mitigate illegal activities.

This year, we also completed an ambitious 74.5-mile electric fenceline to secure Shimba Hills National Reserve and Mwaluganje Elephant Sanctuary. This is an important habitat for coastal elephants, which has become a hotbed for human-wildlife conflict. Having the expertise and capacity to embark on such a large-scale project means we can solve the problem at the source, versus purely reactionary measures.

While we forge a future for Kenya’s wild elephants, we also have our orphan herd back home to look after. This was another busy year of rescues, and during the drought, we rescued the same number of orphaned elephants as the previous five years combined. We had to expand all five orphan units to contend with the influx of new arrivals. Each one will remain in our care until they are ready to reclaim their place in the wild — a process that can take upwards of a decade. To me, these orphans are symbols of survival, beacons of hope, and a reminder of why we must always look forward. After all, an elephant’s life span mirrors our own. We owe it to these orphans to create a viable future, one in which they can live wild and raise their own families.

I end with a nod to perhaps our brightest beacon of hope: Baby Mwana, featured on the cover of this letter, is the very first wild calf born to our Umani Springs orphan herd. We rescued her mother, Murera, back in 2012. A poacher’s spike trap had maimed her rear legs to such a degree that vets advised that it would be kindest to end her suffering. However, we recognised Murera’s will to survive and rallied to save her.

Murera reminds us that every sliver of hope is worth pursuing. She came to us a broken elephant, but now she is a matriarch and a mother. It is because of donors like you that we are able to bring these miracles to fruition. As we take the path forward, I would like to thank you for your steadfast support and commitment, every step in the way. In the following pages, I invite you to explore a snapshot of the successes you make possible. From rescuing orphaned elephants to securing entire ecosystems, your donations have helped us not only navigate this extraordinary year, but also forge a path forward. We truly couldn’t do it without you.

Wishing you and yours a joyful holiday season,

Angela Sheldrick
CEO, Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

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 Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.

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