Every year, millions of people visit the continent of Africa to take in the awe-inspiring natural beauty of its fauna and flora. Whether it’s the plains of the Masai Mara in Kenya, the roaring cascade of the Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe/Zambia or the vast deserts of Namibia, Africa has long since had a hold on man’s imagination. The routes we traverse across this great continent, metaphorical and otherwise, were mapped out by the intrepid men and women of yesteryear – explorers with a notebook and a thirst for adventure. In this series, we profile a safari icon of the past one by one and pay homage to the work they did.

We’ve previously profiled Norman Carr and Jane Goodall, and now we turn our attention to Daphne Sheldrik – The Elephant Lady of Kenya.

Daphne Sheldrick was born in Kenya in 1934 to British parents who had settled in Nairobi for business. An intelligent child, Daphne did very well at school, and received a full bursary to further her education at the University of Nairobi upon her graduation; however Daphne met David and young love blossomed.

A young Daphne and Orphaned Elephant

Shortly after their marriage, David was made the warden of Tsavo National Park (Kenya’s largest) at just 28 years of age. The role was a huge honour, but the responsibility of running such a vast National Park was one that David could not undertake alone and so, seven years later in 1955, he was joined by Daphne as co-warden of Tsavo.

At the time, poaching was rife in East Africa. Hundreds of young animals were left orphaned when their parents were killed for ivory or coats, and the prospect of them surviving in the harsh African bush was slim to none. Recognising this, the Sheldricks established an animal orphanage within the reserve for young animals left orphaned by poaching. Up until her husband’s passing in 1977, Daphne and David worked tirelessly to rescue, rehabilitate and reintroduce to the wild elephants, buffalos, zebras, elands, rhinos, warthogs and everything in between, both big and small.

Feeding time at the sanctuary

From her home in the Nairobi National Park, Daphne has hand reared some 130 orphaned elephants, some from just hours old. Before Daphne, no one had ever done this. She gained the nickname ‘The Elephant Lady’ and received worldwide honour and recognition of her services to animal husbandry and the veterinary sciences.

Today, the The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (established in her husband’s honour) continues the good work of protecting and preserving Africa’s wildlife heritage.

We at African Safari Consultant’s salute them!

Elephants were the Sheldrick's great love
Elephants were the Sheldrick's great love