The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust is a small, flexible charity, established in 1977 to honour to memory of a famous Naturalist,
David Leslie William Sheldrick MBE, the founder Warden of Tsavo East National Park in Kenya, where he served from its inception in 1948 until his transfer to Nairobi in 1976 to head the Planning Unit of the newly created Wildlife Conservation & Management Department. David died 6 months later but his legacy of excellence and the systems he installed for the management of Tsavo and wildlife generally in Kenya, particularly in the sphere of wildlife husbandry and ethics, lives on.
Charitable Status & How we Operate
Since its inception, the Trust has remained true to his principles and ideals, its modus of operation overseen by 6 competent and well versed Trustees assisted by an Advisory Committee of practical Naturalists with a lifetime experience of wildlife, local environmental conditions and the history of conservation in this country. In 2004 the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust attained US Charitable status enhancing its corporate funding capability under the guidance of the U.S. based Friends of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, all whom work on a voluntary basis. On 9th June 2004 it was incorporated as a Charitable Company Limited by Guarantee in the U.K. and granted charitable status by the Charities Commission, its Charity No. 1103836. A Company Limited by Guarantee retains the overall jurisdiction of the Trust’s existing Trustees over the disbursement of funds generated in the U.K.
The Trust’s Conservation Ethics
The Trust has played an extremely significant role in Kenya’s conservation effort since it was founded in 1977, speaking out when necessary on controversial issues and stepping in unobtrusively and rapidly to bridge a gap or meet a shortfall that jeopardizes wildlife during times of Governmental economic constraints. Because in life David Sheldrick strongly censored the extravagance of exorbitant overheads, the Trust places great emphasis on minimal expenditure in this respect, thereby ensuring that donations given in support of wildlife reach their target in full in the most practical and positive manner. The reputation of the Trust is a proud one, as was the record of the man whose name it bears, thanks to the dedication and energy of a competent Staff committed to the example of David Sheldrick as their role model.
Tsavo National Park – The Trust's Main Focus
The name of Sheldrick and Tsavo are synonymous and it is in Tsavo that the Trust places emphasis. 8069 sq. miles in extent, the Tsavo National Park is Kenya’s largest wildlife refuge, harboring the country’s single largest population of elephants and a greater biodiversity of species than any other Park in the world, since, by fortunate accident, there the Northern and Southern races of many species merge. Being of low and erratic rainfall, it is arid marginal tsetse infested land easily reduced to desert under domestic stock and as such unsuitable for ranching or agricultural activities. In a country where an expanding human population is making increasing demands on the land, there is no better form of land use for this region than under wildlife. Tourism is a main source of foreign exchange for the country so Tsavo under wildlife is an extremely valuable National resource.
The Park’s very size is its strength, for it is self sustainable and ecologically viable without intrusive human interference of its wild populations, other than to monitor, learn, take heed and better understand Nature’s ways. Indeed Tsavo can boast a proven record in this respect, having weathered devastating droughts and violent flooding, epidemics of rinderpest plus natural population surges and swings triggered by elephant induced vegetational progression, yet its rich biodiversity remains intact, strengthened through accepting natural selection which is a vital tool to distil out imperfections and keep the gene pools pure. Besides harbouring most of Kenya’s elephants, and providing the space they need for a quality of life in elephant terms, Tsavo is also home to the last of the great herds of buffalo in Kenya, the rare Hirola, or Hunters hartebeest, the largest population of lions left in Africa and a broad spectrum of other predators in healthy numbers, including the now extremely rare African hunting dogs, striped and spotted hyaenas (under pressure in small sanctuaries) with reported sightings by experienced Naturalists of Brown Hyaenas as well, previously not recorded in this part of the world..
The Trust was the pioneer of Kenya’s very effective conservation strategy to retrieve the highly endangered Black Rhino from extinction, something that has been emulated elsewhere in Africa. It masterminded the concept of electrically fenced enclosures within the Protected Areas so that outlying survivors of the species could be concentrated for breeding purposes. Aside from purchasing Crates and constructing Relocation Holding Stockades, the Trust was instrumental in the establishment of Kenya’s first enclosed Rhino Sanctuaries in Tsavo West and Lake Nakuru National Parks. It also pioneered the free release of excess animals from these Sanctuaries into Tsavo East, mindful of the fact that should security collapse (as it has in the past), enclosed rhinos are more at risk than those living free.
The Trust also pioneered the successful hand-rearing and complicated strategy of successful rehabilitation back into established wild rhino communities of orphaned Black Rhino calves. Its expertise has been responsible for saving many orphaned rhino calves on Kenya’s Private Ranches as well as elsewhere in Africa. Its hands-on practical experience and inside knowledge of this species is unmatched.
The same can be said of Elephants, for the Trust can claim another important first. Daphne Sheldrick was the first person in the entire world to successfully hand rear newborn fully milk dependent African Elephant orphans, something that spanned 28 years of trial and error to achieve. By the year 2008 the Trust had successfully saved and hand-reared over 82 infant African Elephant calves, two from the day of birth. Currently, over 40 of the Trust’s hand-reared elephants are fully established and living free amongst their wild peers in Tsavo, some returning with wild born young to show their erstwhile human family. Based at two established Elephant Rehabilitation Centers within Tsavo East National Park others are still in the gradual process of re-integration with yet others in early infancy at the Trust’s Nairobi National Park Elephant and Rhino Nursery. The Trust has trained a team of competent Elephant Keeper who replace the orphans’ lost elephant family until such time as the transition to the wild herds has been accomplished, something that can take up to l0 years, since elephant calves duplicate their human counterparts in terms of development through age progression. Those that were orphaned too young to recall their elephant family remain dependent longer, but all the Trust’s orphans eventually take their rightful place amongst their wild counterparts, including those orphaned on the day they were born.
Read about the first orphan Samson who arrived in 1954.
Elephant Conservation - Fencing
Another ambitious and significant contribution to elephant conservation that the Trust has made has been to electrically fence and maintains a huge portion (62 kilometers) of the highly sensitive Northern boundary of Tsavo National Park, thereby protecting food crops of an impoverished human community from damage by elephants, circumventing human/wildlife conflict.
Holding the Ivory Ban
On an International level, and in the interests of elephant conservation generally, the Trust pursues an aggressive ongoing campaign to exert public pressure on The International Convention for Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) to maintain the International ban imposed on the sale of Elephant Ivory in 1989 and also to disallow sales of Southern African ivory stockpiles. As long as there is a market for carved ivory trinkets, the elephants of Africa will continue to be cruelly killed for their teeth.
The Trust’s expertise on the hand-rearing of wild orphans extends to species other than just the elephants and rhinos. Over the years it has successfully hand-reared and repatriated back into their respective wild communities, orphans from almost all Kenya’s indigenous species. However, the Trust will only undertake the hand rearing of wild orphans that can ultimately be successfully returned to the wild when grown which include all the antelope species from dikdiks to elands, zebra mares ( but not the stallions), Cape buffaloes, warthogs, squirrels, mongooses, civets and genet cats, jackals and birds. A nucleus of buffalo orphans raised by the Trust established the resident herd within Nairobi National Park, and its orphaned zebras re-established that species in the Shimba Hills National Park. The Trust’s expertise in this field has been disseminated widely throughout Africa, thereby saving many wild animals orphaned elsewhere.
The rampant bushmeat trade, now no longer simply at subsistence level, having turned commercial since the amendment of the law to allow the sale of wild game meat, threatens the very existence of the so-called "meat species" and poses a sinister and extremely ominous threat to wildlife throughout Africa. In an effort to contain this unsustainable menace in Kenya, and with the assistance of concerned bodies and individuals, the Trust funds and manages six fully equipped and operational De-Snaring teams who, in conjunction with Kenya Wildlife Service Rangers, constantly patrol what boundaries they can cover of Tsavo National Park, retrieving and destroying wire snares set to trap game and saving what animals are found still alive. Literally a mountain of wire snares have been retrieved and eliminated with clean-ups initiated on the main Nairobi – Mombasa road to recover discarded tyres which provide the thin wires used to trap the smaller animals such as dikdik. Another accomplishment was the dismantling of over 180 kms of disused telephone line along the Railway which was an ongoing source of wire for the poachers. A component of our De-Snaring initiatives, is a vitally important community input which has enhanced the success of our De-Snaring Project.
Funding has been sourced for two fully operational Mobile Veterinary Units to work in conjunction with the De-Snaring teams headed by experienced Veterinarian seconded from the Kenya Wildlife Service. The Tsavo Conservation Unit area of operation covers both Tsavos National Parks, Amboseli National Park, and both the Shimba and Chyulu Hills National Parks as well as neighboring Ranches. The Central Rift mobile veterinary unit covers the Masai Mara National Reserve and the bordering conservation areas, Lake Naivasha, Elementita and Lake Nakuru National Park and all the ranches in that area along with Ruma National Park. These fully equipped Mobile Clinics continue on a daily basis to relieve suffering on a massive scale by providing assistance to sick and wounded animals.
Animal welfare is a cornerstone of our work. The Trust highlights and battles the abuse of animals wherever and whenever it occurs, be it during culling operations in Southern Africa, inhumane treatment of animals in Circuses or Zoos, cruelty inflicted by the infamous live animal and bird trade or abuse at a field level in the name of Science.
It has actively investigated and demonstrated ways and means of successfully rehabilitating "problem" leopards trapped in human settlement hitherto destined to be destroyed out of hand. Through field trials the Trust proved that most problem leopards, other than territorially entrenched old Toms, can be successfully relocated by holding he animal in captivity for at least one lunar month at the point of release beforehand.
General Conservation Initiatives – Water and Security issues
Generally, in practical and positive conservation terms therefore, the Trust’s record within Tsavo and also elsewhere stands on merit and is something of which we are justifiably proud. It has established many boreholes and Windmills to enhance the dry season productivity of Tsavo as an arid region; gives ongoing assistance with the clearing of firebreaks and the building of roads and airfields; has expanded the Park’s radio network in the interests of better communication, and most importantly, kept the Wildlife Service’s anti-poaching forces mobile through continuous donations of security fuel, the Service having long been unable to fulfill its field security obligations. The Trust has also arranged for aerial surveillance, purchased two aircraft engines for KWS’s Tsavo surveillance plane, has given helicopter back-up during poaching operations; hired helicopters to drive elephants back to the safety of the Park when they have strayed into community areas; assisted with the maintenance of the Park’s plant equipment and afforded practical assistance, encouragement and guidance to Tsavo’s Field Wardens whenever needed.
Assistance Beyond Tsavo
Beyond assistance has been extended to the Mount Kenya National Park to curb illegal hunting with dogs and provide additional Ranger accommodation. Emergency funding went to Meru National Park to rehabilitate the infrastructure during a period of official neglect and to re-establish its Headquarters within the boundaries of the Park. The Trust was also instrumental in sourcing massive international funding for the rehabilitation of this Park once good management had been restored, in order to return it to its former glory, a challenge undertaken initially by IFAW followed by funding from the French Government. We have provided assistance to the Masai Mara, not only through our veterinary unit based there, but in refurbishing the KWS research center in the Mara.
As home to the Trust Headquarters, the Nairobi National Park has also been a beneficiary. The Trust has restored a borehole at the East Gate to the Park, purchased and shouldered the ongoing servicing of the both submersible borehole pump to ensure a steady supply of water to ourselves and the Park labour lines; and the generator, reinforced security by electrically fencing part of the vulnerable Banda Gate/Ongata Rongai boundary and assisted with vehicle maintenance.
The Trust places great emphasis on its community outreach programmes targeting those communities that border the boundaries we cover of Tsavo National Park. We provide curriculum text books and sports equipment, desks and additional teaching aids to numerous schools along these boundaries; fund escorted field trips into the Park for students in the Trust’s own school bus donated particularly for this purpose, to engender an appreciation of wildlife and an empathy for animals. This is reinforced by regular screening of educational environmental films by five Mobile Field Cinema Units operated by the Post Graduate De-Snaring Team leaders. Hardwoods lost to the charcoal trade are replaced by seedlings grown in our Tree Nurseries and donated to communities for planting and post nurturing to ensure their survival. Through our Patronage of the Moi University Wildlife Club, promising Post Graduates are sourced and encouraged to pursue a career within the wildlife field.
In order to secure two extremely sensitive river boundaries of Tsavo National Park, and with the support of the Wildlife Service, the Trust has purchased land to provide an important buffer shielding wild drinking places from human disturbance and interference along the Tsavo boundary and another buffer zone being the protection of the Kibwezi forest bordering the Chyulu National Park.
A Practical Guide to Conservation – The Wilderness Guardian
Finally, through a comprehensive Field Manual, The Wilderness Guardian, compiled from David Sheldrick’s notes and records, and encapsulating field experience of other long serving Wardens throughout Africa, the Trust has made available to all National Parks in East Africa and beyond vital knowledge, field notes, tips and experience that would otherwise have been lost. The Wilderness Guardian now forms an important part of the wildlife management curriculum in most African seats of learning. It is viewed as a lasting tribute to the dedication and expertise of the late David Sheldrick and other early Wardens like him who selflessly established the conservation principles and ideals that have formed the foundation of Kenya’s National Parks, once internationally acknowledged as the finest in the world.
The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust P.O. Box 15555 Nairobi Kenya
All Photographs in this website are Copyright by The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and can not be used without permission.