World Elephant Day Shines Light on Work of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

Today (August 12th) is World Elephant Day and so we sat down with Rob Brandford, Director of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, a charity supported by positive brand Love Brand & Co. who design stylish swimwear and give a portion of their proceeds to three main elephant charities, Tusk Trust, Elephant Family and the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, ‘Trunks for Trunks.’

Numbers of wild elephants across both Africa and Asia are in sharp decline as many are poached for their valuable ivory tusks. 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 David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust claims a rich and deeply rooted family history in wildlife and conservation.

 Rob enjoys time with the orphaned elephants at one of the Trust’s Reintegration Centres at Ithumba, Tsavo National Park.

Rob enjoys time with the orphaned elephants at one of the Trust’s Reintegration Centres at Ithumba, Tsavo National Park.

Can you tell us more about your role at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust?

The DSWT was setup in the UK 10 years ago and I’ve been the Director from the outset. My role has evolved a lot over the years as the charity has grown, with the main responsibility being to raise awareness and funds for our projects, which are focused on the protection and conservation of wildlife and habitats. 

We are best known for our work in rescuing orphaned baby elephants, which is an incredibly successful part of what we do, but it’s the tip of the iceberg and it is important people are introduced to our other projects, such as Anti-Poaching and Mobile Veterinary support, that’s where I come in, I tell the world what we do and importantly, why we do it. 

What are some of the greatest achievements of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust?

The Trust was born in memory of David Sheldrick, the founding warden of Tsavo East National Park and we are immensely proud to have played a key role in the development and protection of Tsavo East, which is now home to the largest population of elephants in Kenya.

Thanks to Dame Daphne Sheldrick’s continued hard work, she pioneered the milk formula and husbandry needed to raise milk dependent baby elephants, today the DSWT has successfully hand raised over 160 orphaned infant elephants and 12 black rhino orphans.  The DSWT’s vet team’s offer another level of achievement; in the last 5 years they have treated thousands of injured wild animals in the field, offering them a second chance at life.  Then there’s our Anti-Poaching Team, these teams risk their lives to protect elephants and other animals, they are on the front line and with our aerial surveillance teams, they take the battle to the poachers – essentially they are the last line of defence and without them I dare not think how many more elephants would have been killed.

Older elephant orphans offer comfort and love to the new arrivals at the Nairobi Nursery.

Older elephant orphans offer comfort and love to the new arrivals at the Nairobi Nursery.

 What was your initial inspiration to want to work with a wildlife charity?

I grew up surrounded by domestic animals, cats and dogs mainly, however it was only after leaving a successful position in marketing to go travelling, that I realised how much joy the natural world brought to me and how important it was that we protect it. That lit a fire in me to want to help if and where I could, and here I am.

What is your favourite part of your job?

Talking with our supporters. Without them we could not do what we do and I love being able to share positive news with them. News from the field about wild animals we have saved – from a rescued orphaned baby elephant to our Mobile Vet Teams being able to reach and treat all manner of injured wild animals such as elephants, rhinos, giraffes, lions and more.  I want people to know that they are making a difference.

What is the most challenging part of your job?

Keeping focused on our ability to save African wildlife in the face of horrors such as the poaching of elephants and rhinos for their ivory and horn respectively.  It would be easy to bury your head in the sand, as everyday there is tragic news, but that’s exactly why I do what I do – I know we can save species and while time is not always on our side, our challenge is to never give up and to educate the world about what is happening to our wildlife and wild places, so that together we can protect them.

What was your Plan B?

I didn’t have one and still don’t – I live by the premise that life is precious, fragile and it is often very short.  My Grandfather, father and brother all committed suicide before I turned 18, it’s had a huge bearing on me and so I take each day as it comes – not because it could be the last, but because every day has the potential to offer something amazing.

What’s the best advice you’ve been given?

If you’re going to do something, give it your all.  The actual wording was a little more blunt and not for print.

Please complete the sentence… I could not live without…

Nature.  To be away from the city and only surrounded by flora and fauna is for me the ultimate mental boost – that connection with mother nature reminds me that we are just one species in a beautiful natural world.  

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Home to the largest herd of wild elephants, Rob admires the vastness of Tsavo National Park

What is your personal luxury?

Getting away once a year to snowboard – big mountains, open space, high speed and friends – that’s a winning combination.

What is your most treasured luxury item?

It’s a toss-up between my road bike and my Olympic torch.  I love being out on the bike, it offers a real sense of freedom, and the torch from London 2012 fills me with a sense of pride for having been fortunate enough to be nominated to run with it during the relay.

What steps do you take to make your life more positive?

I’m fortunate that every day I can take something positive from my work with the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, thanks to a wonderful team of people around me and incredible supporters globally. 

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