I was introduced to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT) earlier this year as I planned my trip to East Africa, and I ended up helping out a bit with their February 25th benefit in SoHo. The more I learned about the organization, the more enthralled I was by their mission. DSWT is a Kenya-based non-profit dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation, and reintroduction into the wild of orphaned elephants and rhinos. During my recent visit to Kenya, I had the privilege of visiting their orphaned elephant nursery in Nairobi National Park.
Most of the resident elephants were made orphans from poaching, which unfortunately remains all too common. As a substitute for their parents, trained locals have stepped up to the plate to help the babies. Known among the DSWT team as Elephant Keepers, their role in each orphan’s life is vital: around the clock support to provide whatever they need, from a warm bottle in the middle of the night to an afternoon stroll with their pachyderm pals. The Keepers actually room with “their” baby elephant during their shift! As heartbreaking as the orphans’ stories were, the emotional bond and community support they receive through DSWT left us feeling hopeful about their futures. We even signed up as sponsors of the little one we connected to the most!
As I continued along my East Africa circuit, Absolute Travel’s Sasha Lehman and Leslie Overton attended DSWT’s New York City benefit. Supporters from the tri-state area braved the epic “snow-pocalypse” blizzard to attend the event at the Wild Horses of Sable Island Gallery in SoHo. Despite the record-breaking snowfall, the room was packed. The energy and cocktails flowed as Deirdre Featherstone of Featherstone Design powered the live auction and spurred on the generous crowd; the trip that Absolute Travel donated was quickly snatched up. Hostess Kristin Davis (from Sex and the City fame) offered heartfelt words about her personal experience at the orphanage. I’m sure by the end of the night, most of the attendees were planning their own journeys to Kenya, but those that are not able to get there can rest assured that despite the hardships that these animals face, the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust is taking good care of them. -Katie