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Dame Daphne Marjorie Sheldrick: Kenya High Alumna Behind The Popular Elephant Orphanage

The Sheldrick Wildlife Trust has and continues to attract visitors from far and wide. A haven for orphaned baby elephants, the place is always swamped with visitors from in and out of the country wanting to catch a glimpse of the majestic creatures being fed by their caregivers.

One can even adopt an elephant for a certain amount. The brains behind the phenomenal idea were the duo of David and Daphne Sheldrick who began taking care of orphaned elephants from the 50s. 

Here is his story as told by WoK.

Background and Education 

Daphne was born in 1934 in Kenya to Bryan and Marjorie Jenkins. Her parents operated a large farm and timber operations in Gilgil.

After the breakout of World War II, her father was sent to a wild reserve. Here, he was to kill zebra and wild beast to feed both the British and Kenyan troupes. 

Aged 6, she went to visit her father and fell in love with the wild.

Daphne attended Nakuru Primary School followed by Kenya High School.

Marriages and conservation efforts 

In 1953, she married Bill Woodley, who worked in the reserve to help counter poaching. They divorced and she married his boss David Sheldrick.

The two worked together in conservation efforts, especially when poaching became rampant in Kenya.

They started taking care of orphaned baby elephants. Their first elephant, Samson, was not as easy to rescue as they had thought.

It took eight people for it to be overpowered. From this elephant ,David, who was then a warden at Tsavo East National Park, learnt a lot about elephants. 

Initially, it was very hard for the elephants to survive as infants without milk. It was later that Daphne discovered the perfect formula made of coconut and two other ingredients in order to replicate their mother’s milk. 

David Sheldrick passed away in June 1977 and Daphne together with her daughter continued the conservation efforts.

David Sheldrick Memorial Appeal was renamed David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in 1987 and it became an independent non profit organization.

It would in 2019 be renamed The Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in honor of the whole family after Daphne passed away in 2018 from breast cancer. 

Awards 

For her conservation efforts, Dame Daphne was recognized both nationally and internationally. 

The late queen Elizabeth II awarded her an MBE in the 1989 Birthday honors. 

In 1992, she became among the world’s top 500 people to be elevated to UNEP’s Global 500 Roll of Honor. 

In 2001, the government of Kenya honoured her with the prestigious Moran of the order  of the Burning Spear (MBS).

In 2002, she was given the Lifetime Achievement Award by BBC.

In 2006, Queen Elizabeth II promoted her a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the New Year Honours List.

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