Located in Namunyak Wildlife Conservancy in Samburu County, northern Kenya, Reteti is the first indigenous owned and run elephant sanctuary.
Reteti was established in 2016 to help these young orphaned elephants – a representation of the local Samburu communities standing up united for wildlife, in recognition of their cultural and economic value.
The Reteti Elephant Sanctuary is a unique project bringing communities together through a shared respect and concern for wildlife. It lies within a 975,000-acre swath of thorny scrubland in Namunyak Wildlife Conservation Trust – part of the ancestral homeland of the Samburu people. Namunyak is supported and advised by the Northern Rangelands Trust, a local organization that works with 33 community conservancies to boost security, sustainable development, and wildlife conservation.
The Naumunyak wildlife conservation includes the Turkana, Rendille, Borana, and Somali, as well as the Samburu – ethnic groups that have fought to the death over the land and its resources. Now they’re working together to strengthen their communities and protect the elephant population.
In spite of the fact that elephant poaching, has fallen significantly in the conservancies around Reteti, elephant calves are still sometimes orphaned or abandoned due to poaching, falling into wells, drought (potentially causing mothers to stop lactating), human-wildlife conflict and natural mortality. Around five to ten calves are saved in northern Kenya every year, from a populace of more than 8,000. Within the sanctuary, young animals are treated and cared for by the dedicated keeper team, recruited from the local communities. A mobile elephant rescue unit, with exceptionally trained staff, returns lost calves directly to their family whenever it can, and also works with surrounding communities to raise awareness and mitigate human/wildlife conflict.
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. Reteti is also empowering Samburu women to be the first-ever women elephant keepers in all of Africa. At first, the community didn’t think there was a place for women in the workplace. Now, the success of these women elephant keepers is unlocking new possibilities and setting a powerful example for girls hoping to pursue their dreams. It’s also changing how the community relates to elephants. Schoolchildren who have never seen an elephant before or who were afraid of elephants visit Reteti and experience these elephants up close. They then realize they can grow up to be a veterinarian or an elephant keeper.
Visiting hours are between 8.30 a.m. and10 a.m. and between 11.30 a.m. and 1p.m. It is important that you arrive promptly at 8.30 a.m. or 11.30 a.m. for the full experience. Visiting the Sanctuary is not only an incredible addition to your safari but one of the best ways to safeguard the wildlife in the area, as well as supporting the local community dedicated to protecting them. Guests get an exclusive opportunity to witness feeding and playtime at the Sanctuary, as well as an in-depth look behind the scenes.