The Samburu women elephant keeper

We want to show you the first community-owned elephant sanctuary in East Africa, Reteti is a place where miracles happen every day, within a 975,000-acre swath thorny scrubland in northern Kenya we found the elephant sanctuary. 

A Samburu ethnic group is working to protect the 6,000 elephants. The need for elephant orphanages is the result of the decimation of herds by ivory poachers in recent decades the elephant numbers are now a fraction of what they were.

But Reteti is not only an elephant sanctuary, it also offers opportunities to women and those who have not been able to go to school, it is a place where knowledge about nature is an active. The sanctuary is empowering young Samburu women to be the first female elephant keepers in Africa.

In the beginning, it was not thought that there could be space for women at work but now new doors are open the woman at the sanctuary are emerging at the same time now is easier create an approach to children that at first could being afraid of the elephant with a new way to introduce them and create the illusion of being future veterinarians of elephant keepers.

National Geographic photographer and documentary filmmaker Ami Vitale visited Reteti and spoke to Lowuekuduk about the obstacles facing the community-owned sanctuary and the progress she’s making.

Sara Dorothy  Lowuekuduk talks about what it means to be a woman and a supervisor in the sancturay: “A woman is an icon in every community. But the men in mine never saw us this way. They see us as weak and think that the elephants can push us down. It can cause fear, but not for the women of Reteti. We are strong. Our [biggest] challenge is leading the men. Some of them are harsh when I tell them to do something. It is a challenge, but we accept it, and we move on.”

Sasha has seen the sanctuary as a way of overcoming for women, now she can get scholarships and employment. Women are attending school and looking for their own money and making their own decisions at the same time. Has begun to change the way men traditionally see women, now the knows that they must be respected and educated.

Reteti is beginning a transformation on the way the Samburus relate to wild animals that were previously afraid. "This oasis where orphans grow up, learning to be wild so that one day they can rejoin their herds, is as much about the people as it is about elephants. "