Securing a Future for Elephants

Published on the 12th of August, 2022

According to estimates, just 400,000 elephants are left in Africa today. While we remain focused on the bigger picture, securing a future for the entire species, we know that every elephant matters. Behind this number are 400,000 individual stories, stories of love and loss, triumph and hardship.

This year, loss and hardship have featured prominently in too many elephants’ stories. A difficult drought has swept across Kenya, leaving a parched landscape in its wake. This is in stark contrast to 2020, which was a year of abundance. Extraordinary rains swathed the Tsavo landscape in green, proliferating life in all its forms. The old persisted and the young flourished; every elephant seemed to have a perfectly plump calf following behind.

But nature gives and nature takes. The beginnings of a drought were percolating last year, and poor rains in October/November offered little relief. In many parts of the country, the April/May rains failed to appear entirely, leaving us with little option but to brace ourselves and hope that we are blessed with rain before year-end.

Tragically, it is elephants who struggle the most during a drought. One might wonder why such a formidable creature is so vulnerable, but this is just another example of how everything in nature has its place. As an apex species, elephants would have few threats to their survival in an ideal world. So, nature has made them fragile: Elephants are prolific feeders with poor digestion, requiring large quantities of vegetation to sustain themselves. Scarcity of food has fatal consequences — and it is the young and old who are the first to fall.

While Africa is no stranger to harsh conditions, human actions are exacerbating the issue. Climate change is unfolding on our very front door, with longer and more frequent droughts and extreme weather patterns becoming the norm. Perhaps humans can adapt to these challenges, but our wild friends are not so fortunate. Every creature has been honed over millennia to fit within the ecosystem they call home. What happens when their home becomes unrecognisable — or disappears entirely?

It sounds dire — and it certainly is — but all hope is not lost. Across Kenya and around the world, people are taking action to protect our planet and secure a future for the largest creatures who call it home. We currently have over 100 orphaned elephants in our care. These elephants are alive today because ordinary people stepped up to save them. Each of our orphan’s stories begins with a hero — a ranger or a farmer, a guide or even a child — who raised the alarm and protected them from harm.

Tragedy left them orphaned, but fate gave them a second chance. Our orphan herd grows up supported by the love of a family, nurtured and guided by Keepers who care for them as their own. When they are ready, they reclaim their birthright, a life back in the wild. There, they go on to have their own families, spawning generations of elephants in the process.

And thus, our task is twofold: to rescue Kenya’s orphaned elephants, and to secure a viable, wild future for them and their kin. All well, an elephant can live upwards of 70 years. Just as we think about the world we want to create for our children, so must we also think about the world we want to create for elephants.

Field-level conservation is the single most effective way to secure a future for elephants. Every day, we are reminded of this: Water installations turn additional landscapes into viable habitats; rapid veterinary intervention brings a lifeline to ill and injured animals; foot and aerial patrols bring devastated ecosystems back to life; community partnerships save wild lives; and the list goes on and on. Our conservation projects work in tandem to secure vulnerable habitats, protect wildlife, and support the communities who call them neighbours. Rain or shine, our teams are out in the field every single day, working alongside wildlife and braving the same challenges they are contending with.

For 45 years and counting, we have been leading the way in elephant conservation — and we couldn't do it without your support. In honour of World Elephant Day, you can play your part by adopting an orphaned elephant in our care. There is tiny Mzinga, who was rescued when she was just weeks old; even tinier Nyambeni, who is alive today because a farmer made it his mission to save her life; Sileita, a courageous young elephant who was found guarding the body of her slain mother; Sagateisa, a drought victim who has already undergone the most extraordinary transformation; and many others whose stories are just beginning. By supporting the orphans of today, you are paving the way for generations of elephants.

Adopt in honour of World Elephant Day

Raising an orphaned elephant is a long-term endeavour. Each one is looked after by a team of Keepers, who provide round-the-clock care and milk feeds until they are ready to reclaim their place in the wild — a process that can take upwards of a decade. Your support makes this specialised, round-the-clock care possible. As an adopter, you will receive monthly updates on your orphan and our Orphans' Project, advance access to the latest Keepers' Diaries, and exclusive photos, and videos, and other special content.
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