San Diego, California - A team of animal health experts from San Diego Zoo Global recently spent time in Kenya working with the Reteti Elephant Sanctuary in the Namunyak community to enhance the medical care and animal husbandry capabilities of this facility.  The elephant orphanage was recently founded in the area to care for young elephants brought to the conservancy for  supportive care and rehabilitation.

“We take care of the elephants, and the elephants are taking care of us,” said Rimland Lemojong, a keeper at Reteti.

 Located in the northernmost regions of the NRT conservancy, the newly created orphanage was inundated this year with orphaned elephants.  To assist with the challenge a team from San Diego Zoo Global including veterinarians, clinical laboratory technicians and nutritionists went to the region to bring equipment, supplies and knowledge for setting up a basic veterinary clinical laboratory to improve the survivorship of the elephants brought into the center.

“Some young elephants are already extremely compromised when they arrive at the center.”  Said Nadine Lamberski DVM, Director of Veterinary Services, San Diego Zoo Global.  “We were able to consult with the local Kenya Wildlife Services veterinarian and the care givers at the center to develop procedures that will allow them to make more rapid diagnosis when an elephant in brought into their care.”

The orphanage at Reteti is run as part of the community based programs of the Northern Rangelands Trust, drawing upon the experience of local community members to care for the young elephants being brought into the center.  The center received more than a dozen youngsters this year, more than they had expected to care for placing strain on the program and its resources.

“The community members working at the Reteti elephant orphanage are extremely dedicated animal care givers.”  Said Carmi Penny, director of husbandry science, San Diego Zoo.  “However the sudden influx of young elephants in need created a situation where they needed additional assistance.  San Diego Zoo Global is proud of our long-term relationship with NRT and our ability to immediately respond to this need by sending out supplies and experienced personnel for consultation.”

In addition to the creation of a medical laboratory, the San Diego Zoo Global team also worked with Kenya Wildlife Services and Namunyuk Community personnel to train staff members in basic medical procedures and tests and worked to evaluate formulas for the elephants at the center.

The Northern Rangelands Trust is a community led, non-governmental organization that was set up in 2004 in northern Kenya by a coalition of local leaders, politicians and conservationists. Its mission is to develop resilient community conservancies, which transform people’s lives, secure peace and conserve natural resources.  NRT is a community conservancy membership organization. The 35 member conservancies work across 4.5 million hectares of northern and coastal Kenya.

Bringing species back from the brink of extinction is the goal of San Diego Zoo Global. As a leader in conservation, the work of San Diego Zoo Global includes on-site wildlife conservation efforts (representing both plants and animals) at the San Diego Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, as well as international field programs on six continents. The work of these entities is inspiring children through the San Diego Zoo Kids network, reaching out through the internet and in children’s hospitals nationwide. The work of San Diego Zoo Global is made possible by the by the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy and is supported in part by the Foundation of San Diego Zoo Global.