April 14, 2018: It is with great sadness that we announce the death of Dr Dame Daphne Sheldrick, legendary elephant conservationist and founder of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. She died yesterday at the age of 83 following a prolonged battle with breast cancer.
Dame Sheldrick dedicated over 60 years of her life to the protection of Africa’s wildlife and some of the world’s most iconic and threatened animals. Born in Kenya in 1934, she spent close to 30 years of her life working alongside her husband David, the founder warden of Kenya’s largest National Park, Tsavo East, as they forged this unforgiving wild land into a protected space for Kenya’s largest elephant population and all manner of wild species. On David Sheldrick’s passing in 1977, she founded The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT) and, over the next 40 years, helped shape the world’s understanding of elephants and rhinos and, critically, she played a pivotal role in the protection of these species.
“Daphne’s passing is an irreplaceable loss to the elephants of this world”, said Wildlife Trust of India’s Executive Director & CEO Vivek Menon.
Dame Sheldrick was the first person to successfully hand raise a milk dependent new born elephant and rhino, knowledge that has seen more than 230 orphaned elephants saved in Kenya, and countless other infant elephants in countries across Africa and into India. She lived alongside elephants and understood their fragility, their intelligence, their capacity to love, to grieve, to heal, to support one another and she took those lessons to the global stage. In doing so, she became a leading voice for elephants, driven by her belief that elephants, and other wild species, have a right to live a free and protected life – just like humans.
“Daphne’s passing is an irreplaceable loss to the elephants of this world”, said Wildlife Trust of India’s Executive Director & CEO Vivek Menon. “What CWRC* has achieved today is in part due to the inspiration I got from seeing Daphne’s orphans in Nairobi in the early 1990s.”
Dame Sheldrick is survived by two daughters, four grandchildren, a family of now wild-living orphaned elephants and a lasting legacy for wildlife conservation.
*CWRC – The Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation is IFAW-WTI and the Assam Forest Department’s wildlife rescue, treatment and rehabilitation facility near Kaziranga National Park in Assam.