Daphne Sheldrick’s involvement with wildlife has spanned a lifetime. Born in Kenya on the 4th June 1934, she grew up amongst animals, both wild and domestic. She was educated at Nakuru Primary School and the Kenya High School where she matriculated in 1950 with Honours and the possibility of a bursary for University Entrance in the Cambridge School Leaving Certificate, achieving the position of 8th in the Colony. Instead Daphne opted for marriage. Living as she did within a National Park, she had the opportunity to observe and study most species at both the field level and in a captive situation. Rearing their orphaned young has brought to her a unique and unparalleled understanding of the "inside story" of wild creatures. - knowledge of their minds and emotions, the role of instinct where it impacts on behaviour, the importance of scent and chemistry in their daily lives, telepathic capabilities, individuality, vocalizations, and the ability to interpret the subtleties of a complex body language.
Since the death of her husband in 1977, she has lived and worked in the Nairobi National Park, courtesy of the Kenya Government, her home duplicating as the Orphans' Nursery. It is here that she has successfully hand-reared over 70 newborn Elephant orphans, some from just hours old, the first time this has ever been achieved. Having completed their two milk dependent years, these orphans, along with the human family of Keepers who replace the lost elephant family, are transferred to the Tsavo National Park, where the orphaned elephants can mingle freely and at will with the wild herds and eventually reintegrate back into the wild community. Some of Daphne's orphans have now had wild born young, which they have brought back to show their human family. Daphne has also successfully raised and rehabilitated over a dozen Black Rhino orphans from newborn, some of whom have had wild born young which they have shared with their human friends. Her expertise has been instrumental in helping many other elephants Africa wide, India, Thailand, and Siri Lanka.
Daphne Sheldrick has tirelessly campaigned at the International level against the abuse of captive animals, most notably in securing the freedom of some of the Tuli elephant calves kidnapped from their living families in Botswana which were being subjected to brutal "training" in South Africa. Daphne Sheldrick is recognized internationally as probably the world authority on both the African Elephant and the Black Rhinoceros, with a broad knowledge of Natural History and the interlocking role of different species within the environment.
Through four books, numerous articles, lectures and television appearances, she has promoted wildlife conservation worldwide. The BBC Documentary “Elephant Diaries” depicting her work with the orphaned elephants, filmed over a period of a full year, has received world-wide acclaim, attracting a viewership of 6 million in England alone for the five evenings it was shown on BBC 1.
For environmental work, Daphne Sheldrick was decorated by the Queen of England in 1989 with an M.B.E. and in 1992 was elected the U.N.E.P.’s Global 500 Roll of Honour. She was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine and Surgery by Glasgow University in June 2000. In December 2001, her work was honoured by the Government of Kenya through a prestigious decoration - Moran of the Burning Spear (M.B.S.), in 2002 by the British Broadcasting Corporation when she received their Lifetime Achievement Award. In November 2005 Ms. Daphne Sheldrick was named as one of 35 people worldwide who have made a difference in terms of animal husbandry and wildlife conservation and in the 2006 New Year’s Honours List, Queen Elizabeth II appointed Dr. Daphne Sheldrick to Dame Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, the first Knighthood to be awarded in Kenya since the country received Independence in 1963.