Ami Vitale’s collection of images from Reteti Elephant Sanctuary in Namunyak Community Conservancy has won first prize in the nature category of the 2018 World Press Photo of the Year Awards.
“The award is for all the keepers at Reteti Elephants Sanctuary who are caring for the small herd of orphaned elephants, in recognition of the incredible work and dedication they give every day. They represent hope and a major success for conservation” Ami said on social media.
The captivating images depict the heart-warming and challenging reality on the ground at Reteti – the first community-owned elephant sanctuary in Africa – whose aim is to rescue, rehabilitate and rerelease orphaned or abandoned elephant calves in and around NRT community conservancies.
“Ami Vitale was able to depict how warriors who once had no interest in conservation efforts are taking a bold step in conservation,” notes Sammy Leseita, the Chief Operations Officer of Sarara.
The efforts of the Namunyak community have seen a tremendous shift in local attitudes towards elephants. Since its inception in 2016 Reteti has rescued a total 38 elephants from serveral conservancies with the help of local people and rangers.
“The cause of each orphaned case is different, it ranges from poaching, to accidental deaths of elephants while at water points, to cases of severe drought like in the last quarter of 2016 through to 2017,” Sammy Leseita adds.
Reteti lies in the remote Mathews Range, encompassed by Namunyak Conservancy, which is home to Kenya’s second largest elephant population. 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 recognize wildlife as an opportunity to improve livelihoods. It has received support and promotion from the Kenya Wildlife Service and Samburu County Government since its inception. Other supports include San Diego Zoo, Conservation International, Tusk Trust, The Nature Conservancy and Save the Elephants.