What an awesome day we had yesterday. The plum dark sky and grumbling thunder could not dampen our spirits. When the heavens opened on our arrival at Wimbledon Common, I nearly burst a gut on seeing the photograph that Gary had just taken. With my elephant suit hanging in loose folds, my Zimbabwe flag sitting comfortably on my patriotic shoulders and my granddaughter’s ‘hello kitty’ umbrellas shielding me from the stinging needle like rain, I looked a sight.
As more and more elephants arrived, ambling with loose gaits onto the field, the air was quivering with the magic that only doing something good can bring. After a warm up session of the plus minus 300 strong herd, the first group of runners were shepherded into the starting blocks and a joyous countdown echoed off the pregnant dark clouds and then they were off.
Five minutes later and it was our turn: another countdown and Gary took off, heels kicking up small splats of mud that attached to my damp elephant skin. A wide grin plastered his face and the race had begun. Between laughter, sliding in the mud and more than a few gasps for air, we galloped our way around the first lap. Overtaking some of the more wrinkled of elephants, we would give each other a cheeky grin before exploding with mirth as the younger and more experienced runners left us in the dust. We puffed and panted our way around the 2nd lap, relieved when the finishing line crept into view. With heart pounding and speeding along at a fast walk, I crossed the finishing line inches ahead of Gary and I am sticking to that version of the story. Punching the air with enthusiasm as I had beaten him but more so because we had raised £450 for The David Shedrick Wildlife Trust in Kenya, I felt a great sense of achievement that we could do our little bit for these animals that I am so passionate about. On the day £27 000 was raised collectively and as this was the first ever ‘Enormous Elephant Run’, I am hoping that the event will grow with each passing year.
I briefly met Benjamen Kyalo who has worked with the orphaned elephants at Ithumba for the past 10 years, since the inception of the Ithumba Unit. I was truly humbled by his passion and love for these magnetic animals. We did not speak for long as there was a queue forming, all eager to have a word with this dedicated man.Wishing him well and thanking him for his selfless devotion, Gary and I rid ourselves of our damp elephant skins and made our way home with tired muscles and smiling hearts.
The festive atmosphere of the fund raising event did not take away the seriousness of the rampant poaching sweeping through Africa during these dark days. A tragic misty veil surrounds these iconic animals as their numbers continue to be wiped out to fuel the unquenchable demand for ivory from the East. The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust was founded by Dame Daphne Sheldrick. Her story is one of courage and determination which spans over five decades of elephant husbandry. She is a truly magnificent woman: one of the worlds best of the best and a true conservationist. She abhors destruction and hatred and is able to connect with greater things and greater understandings. I along with many others salute her.
Born from one family’s passion for Kenya and its wilderness, the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust is today the most successful orphan-elephant rescue and rehabilitation program in the world and one of the pioneering conservation organisations for wildlife and habitat protection in East Africa.
Founded in 1977 by Dr Dame Daphne Sheldrick D.B.E, in honour of the memory of her late husband, famous naturalist and founding Warden of Tsavo East National Park, David Leslie William Sheldrick MBE, the DSWT claims a rich and deeply rooted family history in wildlife and conservation.
The DSWT has remained true to its principles and ideals, remaining a sustainable and flexible organisation. Guided by experienced and dedicated Trustees and assisted by an Advisory Committee of proactive naturalists with a lifetime of wildlife and environmental experience, the Trust takes effective action and achieves long-lasting results. Please log onto their link : www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org and you will be amazed at how many young elephant orphans have been raised and re-introduced to the wild.
Today is my birthday and I have chosen to sponsor an orphan elephant called Kamok, who is eight months old and already showing signs of being a mini-matriarch. http://www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org/asp/orphan_profile.asp?N=299 : Kamok.
I chose Kamok because her story of being abandoned pretty soon after birth broke my heart.
She is called Kamok, a name taken from Ol Pejeta Ranch. Given that her umbilical cord remained soft and fresh, and the pads on her feet where clean and hardly used and her ears petal pink we took the precaution of assuming this calf had never received her mothers colostrums and transfused plasma from a full grown healthy elephant into her tiny body to ensure she had some natural antibodies. This happened while she slept on a mattress covered in a blanket and slept, exhausted from her ordeal.