Celebrate World Wildlife Day on March 3!

Top: James Lekadaa, a Samburu Warrior and guide, along with other warriors and camp staff rescue the terrified elephant calf. Bottom left: Ewaso doing well at the Reteti Elephant Sanctuary. Bottom right: Debborah Luke, SCB Executive Director, works with others to calm the calf. Photo credits: Paul Luke, Julie Scardina, Save the Elephant, Retiti Elephant Sanctuary. 

Greetings SCB Members!

This Saturday, March 3 is World Wildlife Day, a day where we celebrate the beauty and value of the animals and plants around us, raise awareness of the issues threatening these species, and take actions to safeguard them. Many SCB members study specific species and species that are vital to ecosystem health and biodiversity.

In honor of World Wildlife Day, I encourage each of you to share one (or more) of your personal “conservation stories” about a species you study or a species that impacts your work. Please share a picture and reason(s) why we need to conserve the species using the hashtag #WorldWildlifeDay and tagging @Society4ConBio on TwitterInstagram and Facebook. We will retweet and 'like' those who tag us and we ask that you retweet other posts that you find inspiring.

To get you started, I would like to share a story about an amazing event that happened to me which illustrates the power of collaborative conservation. Last October, I traveled to Kenya for a safari vacation with a group of long-time friends who are also experienced in wild animal care and conservation. After an uncommon torrential downpour in the beautiful arid landscape of northern Kenya, an elephant calf, no more than 10 days old, was spotted across from our camp on the Ewaso Nyiro River, with no herd in sight. This calf was clearly distressed, trumpeting and pacing back and forth along the bank of the swollen and fast moving river, which had at least four crocodiles sunning themselves along its edges.

Our Samburu warrior guide, James, contacted the Kenyan Wildlife Service and Save the Elephants, a leading elephant research organization in Kenya to help, but before they could respond, the calf ran upriver and fell into the water. James made a split-second decision to enter the river to rescue the calf, and as he neared, the calf actually turned and reached her trunk out towards him. Other warriors and camp staff swam out to help guide the terrified elephant back to safety.

Once ashore, the rescuers were unsure what to do with the calf so our team of animal caretakers assumed responsibility for calming her down. As she began to relax, we assessed her vital signs and it became clear that the calf was dehydrated and needed critical care. She went into shock and we began hydrating her by soaking towels with water that we placed into her mouth to suckle.

Save the Elephants and the Nasuulu and Samburu Conservancy were able to secure a flight with Northern Rangelands Trust to bring the calf to the Reteti Elephant Sanctuary for further care. We transported the calf to a small airstrip, where she was loaded into the plane and brought to Reteti, the first community-owned elephant orphanage in Africa.

Now, just a few months later, “Ewaso”, named after the river she was rescued from, is doing well! And while she is the smallest of the elephants in the orphanage, the goal is to eventually try to release her back to her herd.

Ewaso’s story would not have ended on such a good note if everyone had not worked together, and if these amazing organizations were not already in place to help these endangered animals.

I look forward to sharing bits and pieces of this story on our social media platforms on World Wildlife Day, but you can learn more about Ewaso’s story right now, here:

Please join me in sharing your stories on World Wildlife Day! Be sure to tag @Society4ConBio, use #WorldWildlifeDay in your posts and check back often so you can help us retweet these accomplishments.

All the best,

Debborah (Debi) Luke, Ph.D.
SCB Executive Director