To be a baby elephant must be wonderful. Surrounded by a loving family 24 hours a day. Touched by the family, cuddled and comforted. A tremendous love and passion exuded by every family member. I think it must be how it ought to be, in a perfect world. – Daphne Sheldrick
Yesterday the elephants of African lost one of their greatest champions, as conservation icon Dame Daphne Sheldrick passed away, age 83.
World famous for her work in raising elephant orphans, Daphne founded the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Kenya in 1977 in honour of her late husband, the founding warden of Kenya’s Tsavo National Park. The DSWT is today the most successful rescue and rehabilitation program for orphan elephants in the world, and continues to pioneer the fields of wildlife and habitat protection in East Africa.
The milk of wild elephants is an almost impossible substance to substitute, so specific is it to various antigens and chemical compounds contained in the wild plants on which elephants feed. It took Daphne Sheldrick 23 years to develop a viable formula to substitute for their mother’s milk which she could feed to the orphan elephant calves she was raising, and to this date, over 230 elephants have been successfully reared by the trust in Kenya alone.
The honours heaped upon Daphne were many, starting with the awarding of an MBE in 1989 by Queen Elizabeth and culminating in her appointment to Dame Commander of the most Excellent Order of the British Empire in the 2006 New Years Honours List, which was the first knighthood to be awarded in Kenya since the country achieved independence in 1963.
It is impossible to convey fully in a simple post the dedication, love, and strength with which Daphne approached her life in conservation, but the legacy she leaves behind is testament enough.
Daphne will be greatly missed by the millions she inspired around the world and the thousands of people she worked with over the years.
In the words of her daughter, Angela Sheldrick: ” She died knowing that she will continue to make a difference each and every day upon a land that she held so dear to her heart through the work of The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, thanks to a dedicated team she leaves behind… What a gift she leaves us all with, as she really is a shining example of the finest of humanity.”
Dame Daphne Sheldrick; Kenyan wildlife’s matriarch.