4th June 1934, Dame Dr. Daphne Sheldrick was born. Eons later, she would become the Conservation Icon, who pioneered the powdered milk formula used to hand-feed baby elephants and rhinos. Her research and failures took her about 28 years. She came up with a way to mix the special milk powder mixed with warm water and some coconut oil, so the babies could feed easily; cow’s milk she discovered had lots of fat, the animals could not tolerate it. This has helped her save over 230 elephants in Kenya and India plus rhinos and other animal species across Africa.
Dame Daphne’s journey begun right under her parents’ care. Who would have thought allowing her to nurture ‘Bushy’, an orphaned baby bushbuck (antelope) would define her destiny? If only we can see tomorrow and get to tell about our destinies, her parents would have known her life’s philosophy was just being established.
Forgoing campus for marriage, Dame Daphne rewrote the story of her life. After leaving her first marriage, she got married to David, the founder Warden of Tsavo East National Park; the largest national park in Kenya. They worked as wardens for 25 years; their call – to protect, preserve, and conserve elephants and other animal species in the wild.
Elephants are emotional animals. Orphaned then left alone, they tend to cry. They love each other, enjoying the company and playing together. This proves their being intelligent social species, with fantastic problem-solving capabilities – a making not shared by many other Animalia. Dame Daphne got to live with them, learn their ways and understand animal psychology, and most of their behavioral matters. She learned to listen to them; understanding their capacity to love, grieve, heal, bond and their intelligence.
David, Daphne’s husband passed away in 1977 after suffering a heart attack. And Daphne after getting permission from the Government of Kenya, brought us the world-renowned, most successful orphaned elephant rescue and rehabilitation center, David Sheldrick’s Wildlife Trust (DSWT) right in the vicinity of Nairobi.
This is the best place to get an in-depth understanding of elephants, and to take that unforgettable pic from a front-row seat. Here, they take care of elephants and rhinos orphaned by poaching or drought. The animals are exposed to the wild early every morning and sleep on a bed with blankets every night. Who would have guessed this? We all need to visit, for an experience of our own. They are fed every three hours, day and night by wardens employed to take care of them.
For over 60 years, her life was about protecting Africa’s elephants, rhinos and some of the world’s most endangered species. And not seeking to be a star in the global arena, she reminds us through and through those elephants and all flora and fauna are beautiful creations deserving a free and protected life, just like us.
Dame Daphne rests at the age of 83 years. Leaving a legacy to behold. She wrote her own story or love, passion, commitment and put our beautiful motherland on the world stage. David Sheldrick’s Wildlife Trust is a must visit for both tourists and natives alike. At just a donation of Kshs. 500, I have never had enough of the elephant feeding 11:00am-12: 00-noon visits. I still will visit again and again.
As the curtains fell on 12th April 2018, I say she lived a full and accomplished life. She has taught us the beauty of following our passions and redefined commitment. Whatever your field of expertise is, give it your all and inspire generations with your great works. In an interview with The Telegraph recently she said, “The existence of the park remains one of my proudest achievements. But seeing my children and grandchildren’s love for the natural world and their commitment to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and the work they do is most rewarding. I know that the legacy of all we have worked towards will continue long after I am gone.”
Today, the Legend is gone, but the elephants will continue to trumpet on.
Mama Elephants, Rest in Peace!