American anthropologist and natural science writer Loren Eiseley once said, “One does not meet oneself until one catches the reflection from an eye other than human.”
It’s an interesting exercise: look deep into the life of an animal to reflect on your own life. At first glance, there may not be a whole lot in common between you and say, an African elephant. But science shows that elephants (and countless other species) share much in common with the way we live. They bury and mourn their dead, rear their young and socialize like we do, and as victims of displacement, poaching and mass culls, display symptoms like those of humans who have been victims of genocide, rape, or other horrors—including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, self-harm and infanticide.
The battle for preservation and rehabilitation for animals that have been victims of the aforementioned circumstances is an uphill one—as humanity has industrialized and expanded, wildlife has suffered. Which is why we’re so inspired by the tireless efforts of The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT). Founder Dame Daphne Sheldrick’s commitment to preservation of Africa’s endangered animals, particularly elephants and black rhinos, is unwavering. The Kenya-born doctor, awarded for her work with an M.B.E. by the Queen in 1989, is recognized internationally for her lifelong commitment to wildlife conservation, having spent years working alongside her late husband David Sheldrick, founder Warden of Tsavo National Park in Kenya, after which the Trust was named. Through her work, Daphne Sheldrick has developed an empathy for and understanding of animals that, arguably, no one has matched. She is the first person ever to have successfully hand-reared fully milk-dependent newborn orphan elephants and integrate them into the wild, a feat and process that took decades to refine.
Today, she continues to operate the 33-year-old Trust along with a team of skilled elephant keepers that take in orphans—many victims of poaching— and nurture them through adolescence. Over many years, they are transitioned into herds to return to a natural, wild life in Tsavo, despite having suffered unnatural trauma largely at the hands of humans. Many of the former orphans even return to the Trust with wild-born young to show off their new families.
Beyond elephants, the Trust is also credited with pioneering the conservation strategy of essentially saving the black rhino from extinction, and devotes time, money and energy to fight the ivory trade and poaching, provide medical assistance to injured or at-risk animals, educate the world on how to safeguard wildlife and protect animal habitats outside of Tsavo from human disruption.
Because of its modest principles, the Trust and its advisory committee of naturalists operate with very little overhead; meaning financial support goes to the welfare of the animals. Supporters can donate to the Trust easily online, follow news on the Facebook page, or join the beloved fostering program that enables animal lovers to give directly to members of the herd.
“The planet Earth was not designed for humans in isolation,” said Sheldrick. “We should nurture and care for the natural world and all that it encompasses, rather than destroy, destruct and despoil.”
David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust
from Indianapolis, IN