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Of Elephants and Goat’s Milk

Forget oat milk, goat's milk is all the rage at Reteti Elephant Sanctuary where it nurtures orphaned baby ellies and entire communities
Above: Keeper Pauline giving cuddles before bedtime

A few months ago, Kalepo Camp, in partnership with Scenic Air Safaris, hosted a group of agents on a little fam trip (short for familiarisation, for our non-industry readers) to Northern Kenya. These trips are a delightful perk for travel planners like me, allowing us to explore new places to share with our guests so they can experience them as well. Lo and behold, our hosts had a special treat in store for us: a visit to Reteti Elephant Sanctuary. And if you know me from my last blog, my love for baby elephants knows no bounds.

The beautiful Matthews Range is now home for these two orphans

Founded in 2016, Reteti is dedicated to protecting and preserving elephants in and around Samburu County. This unique sanctuary, run by the local Samburu community, makes significant strides in conservation and caring for these endangered animals. Providing a safe haven for vulnerable calves who have lost their mothers to drought, human-wildlife conflict, or natural causes, a team of dedicated keepers — guided by experienced conservationists — provide round-the-clock care, nurturing the baby elephants physically and emotionally until they can reintegrate into the wild.

Even baby elephants guzzle an alarming amount of milk
The Milk to Market Program supplies Reteti with its goat milk

Our host for the morning was the lovely Naomi Leshongoro, a passionate and informative keeper. The tour started with a visit to the kitchen, where litres of milk were prepared for feeding time. Naomi explained the specific supplements and nutrients needed to make the milk nutritious for each elephant based on their conditions. Some of the babies require more than the average eight bottles per day due to malnutrition, injuries or illness.

When COVID disrupted the supply of purchased cow's milk, Reteti turned to goats, whose milk turned out to be more nutritious, fatty and easily accessible compared to the previous version. This alternative source not only greatly benefits the elephants but also provides an important financial one to the community — its women, in particular. Traditionally, in Samburu culture, the men own the goats, and the women own the milk, so this offers a valuable opportunity for women to earn an income outside of traditional beadwork. This money, in turn, allows them to pay school fees to educate their children — a greater benefit of Retiti's work.

While Naomi passionately spoke, I heard the soft shuffling footsteps passing by the kitchen, which quickly drew my attention: a handful of little elephants strolled by, smaller than any I had ever seen before. Naomi directed us to follow them and observe the babies as they joyfully dipped and rolled in mud baths. After a while, we watched as different groups were fed according to age in the main feeding area, each with their own stories and distinct personalities.

Kapai is lovingly looked after by keeper Lemerash

The entire experience was a testament to the intelligence and charm of these magnificent creatures but also to the keepers whose genuine love and care play a huge role in their growth and development. In addition to its primary focus on elephants, Reteti's compassion has extended now to include a few baby giraffes as well. These tall, graceful beings can find themselves in need of assistance due to injury and separation but at the Sanctuary they have also found a home. Some of the lucky members of our group had the opportunity to feed these other gentle giants.

The newest orphans getting acquainted at Reteti
The Reticulated giraffes, found here, are also endangered

If you find yourself in Northern Kenya, or better yet, feel like going out of your way, I highly recommend visiting Reteti Elephant Sanctuary: it’s truly an authentic, off-the-beaten-path experience. The Sanctuary represents a beacon of hope in this remote part of the country, for both elephant conservation and community engagement, showcasing the harmonious relationship that can exist between wildlife protection and community upliftment. If you are unable to visit but still interested, I highly recommend keeping up with their blog, following them on social media, or visiting their website to see the different ways, big or small, that you can make a difference.

Notes from the Editor:

A big thank you to Kalepo Camp and Scenic Air Safaris for sharing this beautiful part of Kenya with us. We also have to say a heartfelt thank you to Reteti for all the work they do for the wildlife and community in this area and for sharing these lovely pictures with us. If you are interested in exploring more of Northern Kenya with Angama, see our safari page here.

Filed under: East Africa Travel

Tagged with:

Angama Travel , Conservation , Elephant , Travel East Africa

About: Stefanie Strothmann

When she isn’t planning holidays for our guests, Stefanie is keeping us up to date on what’s going on in the Green City in the Sun. She has been our go-to for recommendations on new restaurants, art exhibits and Kenyan brands since she joined Angama in 2019.

Browse all articles by Stefanie Strothmann Meet the angama team

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