Daphne Sheldrick dedicated her life to saving orphaned elephants, and they loved her in return

There are many good people who take in rescue animals. When you’re looking for a new pet, there’s nothing better than giving a good home to a stray dog or orphaned kitten who needs your help.

But what about elephants? Needless to say they’re harder to care for, but due to the ivory trade leaving so many young elephants motherless, they need help to survive.

Thankfully, one woman dedicated her life to caring for these young elephants, giving them a mother’s care and helping to rehabilitate them back into the wild.

Dame Daphne Sheldrick was born in 1934 in Kenya, at the time part of the British Empire, and knew she wanted to work with animals since she visited her father at the nature camp he was assigned to.

Already as a young woman, Daphne started caring for orphaned animals.

“As soon as I saw the location of the camp I thought, ‘This is how I would like to live, out here among the animals under the sky,’ ” she wrote in her autobiography, according to the New York Times.

She lived that dream. She married her husband David Sheldrick, and the couple served as the wardens of Tsavo National Park for over 20 years, turning it into Kenya’s “largest and most famous National Park.”

During this time they rehabilitated many animals, and also helped fight against a rapid poaching problem.

David died in 1977. Daphne wanted to do something to honor her husband’s memory… so she started the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Nairobi.

The trust is focused on the rehabilitation of elephants, along with animals like rhinoceroses. It serves as a sort of orphanage for baby elephants whose mothers were killed, largely due to poachers hunting them for their ivory tusks.

Baby elephants cannot survive more than days on their own. They rely on their mothers teaching them important survival skills. And, as Daphne Sheldrick told 60 Minutes, they can die from trauma and heartbreak from seeing their mothers killed—elephants never forget.

But at the Sheldrick Trust, workers fill the mother’s role, feeding and bathing the elephants, instilling survival skills their parents would normally teach them, and even playing games. Daphne also helped develop a special food and milk formula for elephants, to give them the nutrition they need for normal development.

The goal is to get them to a place where they can be rehabilitated into the wild and released into their natural habitat.

Daphne oversaw the trust for decades, forming a close bond with the elephants. They would line up to greet her, as if knowing all the hard work she did to help them throughout her life.

“Their tremendous capacity for caring is, I think, perhaps the most amazing thing about them,” Daphne told 60 Minutes. “They have all of the best attributes of us humans and not very many of the bad.”

In 2006, Daphne Sheldrick was honored with damehood from Queen Elizabeth II for her lifetime of conservation efforts.

Daphne died in April 2018, but her trust continues to operate, ensuring that these beautiful animals continue to get the care they need, and that the legacy of Sheldrick and her husband lives on for generations.

Let’s thank Daphne Sheldrick for all the incredible work she did during her lifetime, and spread awareness for her organization!

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