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World Elephant Day: Kenya’s sanctuary raises orphaned baby elephants & returns them to the wild

An elephant calf at Kenya's Reteti sanctuary enjoying the milk (Pic. Courtesy Twitter/@NatGeo)

Experts have emphasised that wildlife conservation should be led by the local people and communities in order to make it successful. That is what is happening in Kenya’s Reteti sanctuary which is owned and managed by the Samburu community!

On World Elephant Day it is worthwhile to look at the Reteti sanctuary  which was set up in 2016 to rescue and rehabilitate young elephants with the purpose of reintroducing them in the wild.

Located in the northern Kenyan mountains, this sanctuary built by Samburu houses orphaned elephants. Reteti has the singular distinction of being the first indigenously owned and run sanctuary to rescue and raise the elephants who have been rendered orphans and later send them back to their natural habitat, the wild.

Reteti is breaking the usual stereotypes while redefining the management of ecology and wildlife.

Besides, taking care of the elephant claves, the place is helping to empower the women of Samburu, according to a write-up in theguardian.com. Take for instance, Sasha L. Dorothy, working there, who holds the distinction of being the first female elephant keeper of Africa! “Before, I was afraid of wild animals, especially elephants, but now I see them differently,” she observed.

Also read: Drones and Bananas nudge wayward elephants back to their home base in China

Like any new initiative, initially the community was of the view that the sanctuary was no place for women to work. That has changed now and the success of these women keepers has set an example for young girls to follow their desire and dreams.

Enjoying the goat milk (Pic Courtesy theguardian.com)

Reteti has brought about a paradigm shift in how the community views and relates to the elephants. On realising the advantages of a healthy elephant population, people willing came forward to take care of their wildlife.

School going children who are either in awe or afraid of these creatures, during their visit to Reteti see them in close proximity and get comfortable with them. On returning home, a number of them now nurse the ambition of becoming a veterinarian or an elephant keeper.

Now the entire Reteti village is involved with the care and upkeep of these elephants. When the Covid pandemic made the expensive powdered milk for these calves scarce, it was decided to experiment with goat’s milk. After some intense research, they arrived at a formula which is beneficial as the survival rate among the orphans who have arrived recently has shot up from 50 per cent to 100 per cent!

Feeling safe in the refuge of Reteti with care and help available 24×7 (Pic Courtesy theguardian.com)

Ever since it was established in September 2016, Reteti has rescued more than 35 elephants and returned 10 to the wild. This has been possible because of 24×7 vigil and care by the keepers who even stay with the animals at night.

The orphan elephant calves arrive in the sanctuary because of human-elephant conflict, drought and poaching. Reteti as a true haven and refuge tends and nurses them to return them back to where they belong, the wild!

Also read: Naughty 'Mountain' elephant moved to a new home!