Samburu women
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Saving Baby Elephants: Reteti Elephant Sanctuary and Local Samburu Women Mutual Benefit ‘Goat Milk’ Partnership

A small group of local women in Samburu, Kenya, have found a sustainable way to feed orphaned baby elephants—Goat Milk. Reteti Elephant Sanctuary, located in a swath of thorny scrubland in Northern Kenya, together with a local community of Samburu women, has devised a mutually benefiting partnership to help in elephant conservation while at the same time fending for their own needs.

Community-run Reteti Elephant Sanctuary, also known as Namunyak Wildlife Conservation Trust, sits on a 975,000-acre scrubland and is part of Samburu people’s ancestral land. Together with 33 other conservancies, the sanctuary aims to boost security, sustainable development, and wildlife conservation.

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Reteti Elephant Sanctuary Introduced Less Costly Goat Milk for Elephant Calves

“The least we have gotten is one week old. At that time, they are not eating grass. They are not eating leaves. They cannot browse,” Dr. Steven Chege explains in an interview with the BBC. “In the natural range, they get milk from their mother, and we don’t have that milk. Nobody has it anywhere, so we have to think what are the alternatives,” he added.

On 31st August, the Kenya Wildlife Service released the 2021 wildlife census report. The report gave a detailed review of Kenya’s wildlife conservation status. Based on the findings, Kenya has 36,280 Elephants, an improvement from a species threatened by poaching due to the value of its ivory task on the black market.

Reteti Elephant Sanctuary introduced goat milk for the calves since it is less costly than powdered baby formula. However, even though goat milk offers high nutritional value, it’s not as popular as dairy milk, and as a result, it doesn’t have a high commercial demand. Fortunately, goat milk is plentiful in Samburu.

Women in Samburu were looking for a source of income. So they started selling goat milk to the sanctuary.

Empowerment For Local Samburu Women

“I have benefited a lot from the sale of goat’s milk. I used to sell goats to fend for my family. But now I keep them and still make money,” Masian Lemojo, a local Samburu woman, disclosed.

Reteti Elephant Sanctuary also provides water for the community and works with the locals to rescue and conserve elephants in the region. Reteti Sanctuary has 26 elephants. Ten have already been released to the wild.

According to Dr.Chege, the bigger goal for the elephant sanctuary is not to release elephants to the wild but to preach conservancy.  “The moment the people see the changes and benefits, it easy actually, it becomes a win-win situation,” he added.

For the local Samburu women, the initiative means independence. They no longer depend on their husbands to provide for their families. What they get from the project goes a long way.

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