The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust
Charity No. 1103836
The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, founded by Dr Dame Daphne Sheldrick in 1977, in memory of her late husband, David Sheldrick, is dedicated to the protection and conservation of wildlife and habitats in Kenya. The trust is best known for the rescue and hand-rearing of milk dependent orphaned baby elephants, so that they can return to the wild when grown. The charity also manages anti- poaching teams, mobile veterinary units and community outreach programmes. Here are some of the DSWT's current conservation projects:
Beehive Fence Lines
Human-elephant conflict is a substantial conservation problem and is expected to become an even more complex issue with an ever-increasing human population across East Africa.
Over time, we have recognised that communities living along the border of Tsavo National Park all too frequently encounter wild elephants, destroying their crops, which in turn leads to high levels of animosity between humans and wildlife.
Elephants can benefit the local community in many ways, notably through tourism and the financial support this brings with it. However, education, collaboration and engagement are key in developing an understanding of this and identifying ways to work with - not against - wildlife. Therefore, in 2014 we launched a dual pilot beehive fence line project modelled on successful trials developed and conducted by Dr Lucy King and Save the Elephants (STE). Initially, the primary intended outcome of this project was to reduce the number of human-elephant conflict incidents in the pilot plot areas and those areas behind them with respect to the direction that elephants are coming from. The very successful pilot project provided tangible evidence that this particular initiative does result in a safer environment for Kenya's wildlife and for local communities and we are now working towards the installation of another beehive fence line to protect more farms in Kenya.
Beehives are strategically suspended along a fence, which skirts the boundary of an agricultural plot in Tsavo National Park. When an elephant trying to enter the plot disturbs the fence, the bees become agitated and, since elephants are averse to the sound of bees, they are naturally repelled. The hives and the posts holding them are painted with distinctive markings so that elephants quickly learn to visually associate the fence with bees and choose to avoid them altogether. We encourage the plot owner to maintain the fence line, as they will also benefit from the income that the harvested honey provides. Past evidence has shown that beehive fence lines offer a resourceful solution to human-elephant conflict issues across Kenya's National Parks and we are excited to build on these efforts and to continue with this strategy in 2016.
Wildlife Field Trips
Together with conserving Kenya’s wildlife and habitats, we are dedicated to improving the quality of life for the people of the greater Tsavo Conservation Area (TCA). To achieve this, we organise year round Community Outreach Programmes to help enhance attitudes towards wildlife. We achieve this through hosting educational programmes, offering new and sustainable solutions to human-wildlife conflict, managing local community-based conservation groups and, most notably, wildlife field trips for local schools.
A high proportion of Kenyans born and living within the country have never had the opportunity to see the majority of Kenya’s wild animals. Poverty is sadly the single greatest reason for this, as most Kenyans do not have access to transport, which is needed to reach and travel within National Parks and Reserves. It is therefore difficult to expect these same people to stand up to protect wildlife, which they may have never encountered or even seen in pictures. All too often, the perceptions of the children are founded on the negative experiences of their elders, who may have encountered crop raiding elephants and thus see this species as a threat and a pest. We feel it is our responsibility to demonstrate the true nature of this species and of what it offers Kenya.
With funding, each year we host 75 school trips equating to a total of 1,875 students and 150 teachers. Accompanied by their field booklets, which offer children a visual and interactive guide on the wild animals they are witnessing, school children from local villages are taken for fully sponsored wildlife field trips into Tsavo National Park. In addition, we have collaborated with the Wildlife Clubs of Kenya (WCK) leading to the formation of 75 new clubs in 75 different schools. As members of WCK, school children are offered reduced entry fees to Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) Parks, free wildlife video shows and the opportunity to win prizes in WCK competitions. The DSWT has successfully secured WCK membership for 24 new schools.
The mission of our wildlife field trips is to educate school children on the current situation concerning wildlife, its impact on them and how local communities can find ways to benefit from, and live in harmony with, wildlife.
Our eyes-in-the-sky provide the first line of defence for Kenya’s threatened wildlife. Thanks to our five aircraft, which includes a helicopter, our trained pilots are able to fly low across the Tsavo Conservation Area, providing life-saving aerial monitoring and surveillance. Our aircraft support our Anti-Poaching teams who, with the support of the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), are on hand to arrest ivory poachers, remove illegal snares and counteract future poaching attacks.
Each year, we fly over 2,000 hours in an effort to curb ivory and rhino horn poaching, and to mitigate threats to wildlife and habitats as a whole. Flying over 150,000 miles every year, we are saving countless lives and providing tighter security for Kenya’s threatened wildlife.
Our aerial surveillance work is needed now more than ever, as one elephant is killed every 15 minutes for its ivory. Preventing illegal activities, increasing security and gathering essential data is needed to protect such a vast landscape.
In partnership with KWS regional authorities, ambushes are laid at strategic locations identified from the air to combat persistent poaching activities. Following this, many arrests have been carried out by KWS, whilst poachers’ hideouts, snares and shooting platforms are sighted and destroyed. Other illegal activities identified from the air include the illegal intrusion of livestock within protected areas, which poses a great threat to the future of the environment.
Our Aerial Surveillance Unit is also a vital tool in sighting, monitoring and assisting in the treatment of injured wildlife, including 216 elephants throughout 2015.