Absolute Travel’s Katie Losey checks in from Kenya:
I’m in Kenya, so the last animal I thought I’d write home about is a dog. I was wrong. Standing in front of me is Didi. She’s a rescue, bought from a local shelter for about $5.
Last week she sniffed her way to two of the poachers behind the five elephants, a family, who were gunned down in Tsavo West National Park. Didi and another 4-legged canine conservation dog followed the poachers’ tracks back to the shoes that made them as well as the bloody axe and saw used to hack off their ivory tusks. Didi’s a hero, rewarded with praise and sausage from her handler. Even more remarkable—her handler is a reformed poacher. There’s hope.
My family and I had the chance to meet the team behind Big Life Foundation, the organization training Didi the dog to help elephants. We saw Didi in action with a game of poacher-ranger. My sister and her husband Geoff, the designated “poachers,” walked far away. Then the rest of us, the “rangers,” followed Didi’s lead right to them.
She’s a pro. It’s unbelievable and so much fun to see these sniffer dogs, who didn’t have much of a chance at life on the front end, save other creatures whose futures are equally daunting. I’m hoping the elephants’ futures take an equally surprising and uplifting turn.
The Big Life Foundation are all-around all stars. Not only do they work tirelessly to protect Kenya’s elephants, they are also providing around-the-clock security for Kenya’s wild Black Rhino population (most are in sanctuaries). These are some of the most endangered creatures walking the earth, and also the most lucrative. Black rhino horn goes for 1 million USD. With only eight left unfenced in the wild, it’s no wonder they have their own personal bodyguards. I was lucky enough to join the Big Life Foundation team in Amboseli National Park as these incredible men went through their daily routine. This is no joke. One ranger is killed every four days. These are men who literally risk their lives for the well-being of our planet. Being in their presence is a privilege.
On the last day of the trip we will visit the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust to meet Losoito, the orphaned elephant whose family was killed in Tsavo West National Park. Giving him a squeeze will be like coming full circle. (Note: Since writing this Losoito sadly did not make it. The Trust wrote on their Facebook page, “Having seen his family killed and butchered for their tusks, Losoito was understandably deeply traumatised by the time we reached him on 29th July. Though our Keepers did all they could, he developed diarrhea and sadly passed away on Sunday 2nd August.”) Losoito’s story made visiting these organizations and the work that they are doing on the ground all the more meaningful.
Katie met with Big Life Foundation during her stay at ol Donyo Lodge in Amboseli National Park. If you’d like to learn more about their honorable work or discover these projects in person please get in touch here.
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