The Reteti Elephant Sanctuary is situated in the remote Mathews Range, among Kenya’s second largest elephant population. It takes in orphaned and abandoned elephant calves with an aim to release them back into the wild herds adjoining the Sanctuary. This is the result of a widely recognised and expanding grassroots movement of community-driven conservation across northern Kenya; a movement that is growing new economies, transforming lives and conserving natural resources.
While elephant poaching elsewhere in Africa continues at unsustainable rates, as highlighted in the recent Great Elephant Census, the proportion of illegally killed elephants in NRT member community conservancies has fallen 53% since 2012. Nevertheless, there are still elephant calves orphaned or abandoned resulting from a variety of instances that include poaching, man made wells, drought, human-wildlife conflict and natural mortality.
It is estimated between five and ten elephant calves are rescued in north Kenya each year, from a population of an estimated 8,700. The Sanctuary was established in response to demands from the local community, who recognise wildlife as an opportunity to improve livelihoods.
The Kenya Wildlife Service and Samburu County Government have promoted the establishment of the new Sanctuary, recognising the wish of the local community to retain their elephants within Samburu County and seeing local communities taking a lead in rescuing, rehabilitating and releasing elephants within their home range.
A partnership between Namunyak Wildlife Conservancy, Samburu County Government, Kenya Wildlife Service, Northern Rangelands Trust, San Diego Zoo, Conservation International, Tusk Trust, The Nature Conservancy and Save the Elephants, together with several individuals, has seen the Reteti Elephant Sanctuary established to be able to house and care for young elephants.
In addition, Conservation International (CI) has helped us broaden our community connections and build our capacity to be more effective by providing critical operational support. CI’s engagement is part of the Sarara Initiative, which aims to establish a model of sustainable community-based conservation at an unprecedented level in Kenya — and beyond.
All the keepers are from the local community and are formally trained in the care, rehabilitation and release of elephant calves. An elected board from within the community oversee all operational aspects of the Sanctuary.
This facility also houses a mobile elephant rescue team that works daily on elephant rescue, community awareness and the mitigation of human/wildlife conflict.
The elephant keepers all recruited from within the Conservancy, have perfected the skill of returning lost calves back to their family herds. Since March, they have successfully returned five abandoned calves to their families, and have not yet needed to hand raise any individuals. This is the primary aim of the Sanctuary – with elephants only being taken into care as a last resort.
Reteti Elephant Santuary is located on the Namunyak Wildlife Conservancy in northern Kenya. It is an eight-hour drive from Nairobi. We do have our own airstrip, so it is also possible to arrive via chartered plane from Nairobi, one of the local airports here (Nanyuki, Lewa Downs, or Kalama Samburu) or from the lodge where you are staying. Planes can be chartered through Tropic Air Kenya or Boskovic Air Charters.
Visiting hours are between 8.30 a.m. and10 a.m. and between 11.30 a.m. and 1 p.m.. It is important that you arrive promptly at 8.30 a.m. or 11.30 a.m. for the full experience. We ask that you wear green if possible.
During your visit, you will paired with a keeper who will accompany you the entire time to tell you about our work and answer any questions. From a special viewing platform, you will watch the elephants come in from their walk to receive their bottles and then have mud hole playtime. Afterwards, you will be given a behind the scenes tour of the sanctuary.
We are open year round for visitors, but rains in April and May can make the roads difficult to impassable, and many lodges in the area shut completely during these months. Thus, it is better to plan to come see us during other times of the year.
It is vital that you let us know in advance when you’ll be coming so we can be prepared to receive you. Ideally, you will be able to give us at least a week’s notice.
You will receive detailed GPS directions to the sanctuary and support in planning your adventure once you have booked..
The conservation fee for the visit is 20 USD per person for foreign visitors and 150/- Kenyan Shillings for Kenyan residents.
For exclusive visits, there is an extra 500 USD per group.
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