June 1934- Present
Growing up in Kenya, Daphne Jenkins Sheldrick developed a great passion for protecting and assisting the wild animals native to that region, namely: African Elephants and the Black Rhinoceros.
Due to downward economic pressures, political instability, environmental devastation of natural habitats, and human conflict, incidences of poaching for elephant ivory have increased significantly in recent decades. The African Elephant population, thus, has suffered enormously, bringing it from 1.3 million elephants in 1980 to 25,000 presently. The atrocities against these animals have been compounded by the fact that elephants live in matriarchal herds, with each member being dependent on the others for survival. Since the older members of the herds are frequently larger and thus have bigger ivory tusks, they are poached first. The death, then, of a matriarch and/or mother elephant, greatly threatens the continued existence of the herd’s babies. With this in mind, Daphne and her husband, David Sheldrick, spent over a quarter-century taking in orphaned baby elephants to ensure their survival and then releasing them back into the wild as adults within a new herd of other orphans.
After David’s death in 1997, Daphne and her family created the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Nairobi National Park where they have continued the work that she and David began years ago. It is now considered the most successful orphan-elephant rescue and rehabilitation center in the world.
Daphne has written numerous articles, books, and an autobiography about her life with the elephants. She has appeared on television to promote wildlife conservation and has had a BBC Documentary entitled “The Elephant Diaries,” and an IMAX movie, “Born into the Wild,” made about her.
An expert in her field, she received an M.B.E. decoration from Queen Elizabeth in 1989 and was noted as U.N.E.P.’s “Elite Global 500 Roll of Honor” in 1990. A year later, in 2000, Glasgow University awarded her an honorary doctorate in Veterinary Medicine and Surgery. The Kenyan Government honored her with a Moran of the Burning Spear award in 2000, and a year later, was presented a Lifetime Achievement Award by the BBC. Her perhaps highest recognition came in 2006 when Queen Elizabeth decorated Daphne with the first Knighthood given a British-Kenyan since the country’s independence in 1963, earning her the title of Dame Daphne Sheldrick.