2018 Photo Contest, Nature, Stories, 1st prize

Warriors Who Once Feared Elephants Now Protect Them


Ami Vitale

03 October, 2016

Mary Lengees, one of the first female keepers at the Reteti Elephant Sanctuary in northern Kenya, caresses Suyian, the sanctuary’s first resident, who was rescued in 2016, when she was just four weeks old. Women at Reteti are seen as bringing important nurturing skills into the workforce.

Orphaned and abandoned elephant calves are rehabilitated and returned to the wild, at the community-owned Reteti Elephant Sanctuary in northern Kenya. The Reteti sanctuary is part of the Namunyak Wildlife Conservation Trust, located in the ancestral homeland of the Samburu people. The elephant orphanage was established in 2016 by local Samburus, and all the men working there are, or were at some time, Samburu warriors. In the past, local people weren’t much interested in saving elephants, which can be a threat to humans and their property, but now they are beginning to relate to the animals in a new way. Elephants feed on low brush and knock down small trees, promoting the growth of grasses—of advantage to the pastoralist Samburu.


Ami Vitale

She has lived in mud huts and war zones, contracted malaria, and donned a panda suit—all in keeping with her philosophy of “living the story.” She is an Ambassador for Nikon and...

Technical information

Shutter Speed
Focal length
45.0 mm

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