An African elephant with her calf. Photo via Wikimedia Commons
An African elephant with her calf. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

San Diego Zoo Global is stepping up efforts to protect and save African elephants by teaming up with a wildlife conservancy in Kenya, the zoo announced Monday.

Namunyak Wildlife Conservancy in Samburu County of northern Kenya opened the first community owned and managed elephant orphanage in Africa. The Reteti Elephant Sanctuary is situated in the remote Mathews Range, among Kenya’s second-largest elephant population.

The plan is to take in orphaned and abandoned elephant calves, with the aim of releasing them back into the wild herds adjoining the sanctuary, in the midst of an expanding grassroots movement of community-driven conservation underway across northern Kenya, according to the zoo.

“San Diego Zoo Global is delighted to be part of a new approach to caring for the orphaned elephant youngsters that come into the Reteti preserve,’ said Douglas G. Myers, president and CEO of San Diego Zoo Global.

“This facility will work to ensure that elephants will maintain bonds to other elephants, rather than humans — an approach that we expect will allow earlier reintroduction back into the herd,’ he said.

In addition to the zoo, the Namunyak Wildlife Conservancy partners are the Samburu County Government, Kenya Wildlife Service, Northern Rangelands Trust, Conservation International, Tusk Trust, The Nature Conservancy and Save the Elephants, along with several individuals.

Five keepers, all from the local area, have been formally trained in the care, rehabilitation and release of elephant calves. The facility also houses a mobile elephant rescue team that works daily to rescue elephants, build community awareness and mitigate human/wildlife conflict.

The conservation and science work is made possible by the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy and is supported in part by the Foundation of San Diego Zoo Global, according to zoo officials.

–City News Service

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