RETETI ELEPHANT SANCTUARY is unique. It’s Africa’s first Indigenous-owned and run elephant sanctuary, and also the first to hire Indigenous women as keepers. They are reshaping conservation by empowering women and recognizing that protecting wildlife is also an opportunity to improve local livelihoods. In support of these endeavors, Vital Impacts, a women-led non-profit that uses art and storytelling to support conservation initiatives, is excited to launch a new fundraising fine art print sale in support of Reteti. Funds raised will send thirteen orphaned elephants back to the wild.
This moment is such an immense achievement for the sanctuary and their brave young orphans–who arrived with considerable odds stacked against them, and so much to overcome. Reaching a great many milestones, they have steadily been preparing for their release over the past year. From being weaned from their bottles to extended explorations of the landscape on longer walks, they have increased their encounters with other wild animals and sourced more of their own food. They are ready to roam and rejoin wild herds.
This collaboration between Reteti and Vital Impacts underscores the crucial connection between empowering women, environmental stewardship, and the preservation of wildlife. It tells a compelling tale that goes beyond the heroic efforts of individuals in saving elephants; it also reveals how elephants, in turn, play a vital role in saving the lives of the very people dedicated to their protection. If you appreciate stunning nature photography captured by award-winning artists and wish to contribute to local environmental stewardship, consider gifting a print or bringing one home.
Mary Lengees comforts Lodokejek, an orphaned calf at Reteti Elephant Sanctuary in northern Kenya. The sanctuary is changing the lives of both elephants and people. Elephants are orphaned as a result of drought, human-wildlife conflict, natural mortality, and in rare cases, poaching. Reteti Sanctuary is unique as the first community owned and run elephant sanctuary in Africa.
This photograph is Vital Impacts founder Ami Vitale’s contribution to the non-profit’s upcoming fine-art print sale which will support Reteti for urgent funding to return 13 orphans back to the wild so they can rejoin wild herds. Vital Impacts is a women-led non-profit which uses art and storytelling to support people and organizations who are protecting our planet.
National Geographic Magazine photographer and filmmaker Ami Vitale illuminates the unsung heroes and communities working to protect wildlife and finding harmony in our natural world. She is the founder and executive director of Vital Impacts and has been named one of the most influential conservation photographers of her generation.
Follow Ami on Instagram @amivitale
African Elephant (Loxodonta Africana).
A young calf (less than one-month-old) at waterhole in Mashatu Game Reserve in Botswana.
Suzi Eszterhas is an award-winning wildlife photographer best known for her work documenting newborn animals and family life in the wild.
Follow Suzi on Instagram @suzieszterhas
A bull elephant reaches up to feed from a tree at dusk in Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique. The elephants in the park are recovering after years of civil war—their numbers went from 300 to 800. They are now protected and doing well. This image was shot on foot after leaving the car to hide behind a tree and photograph the elephant.
Charlie Hamilton James is a National Geographic Magazine photographer.
Follow Charlie on Instagram @chamiltonjames
Vital Impacts is honored to have this photograph as part of our permanent, year-round collection.
This is Rajan. He is a 66-year-old Asian elephant brought to the Andaman Islands for logging in the 1950s. He and a small group of 10 elephants were forced to learn how to swim in the ocean to help bring the logged trees to nearby barges and then eventually swim onto the next island.
When logging became banned in 2002, Rajan was out of a job. He spent the rest of his days living out an idyllic elephant retirement on one of the islands he helped log. I photographed him and his Majout (caretaker) named Nazroo who had been together for 30yrs and documented Rajan spending time sunbathing on the beach, swimming in the ocean and foraging in the forest. Rajan was the last of the group to survive until his death in 2016. He was truly the last of his kind.
This image is from the artist series “The Last of His Kind”.
An award-winning photographer, Jody MacDonald is no stranger to adventure and exploration in the last untamed corners of the planet.
Follow Jody on Instagram @jodymacdonaldphoto
A group of elephants roams the plains of Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda.
Joel Sartore is an American photographer focusing on conservation, speaker, author, teacher, and long-time contributor to National Geographic Magazine. He is the head of The Photo Ark, a 25-year project to document the approximately 12,000 species living in the world’s zoos and wildlife sanctuaries.
Follow Joel on Instagram @joelsartore
Lorok and Ngilai comfort one another as they explore the wilderness at Reteti Elephant Sanctuary in northern Kenya. The sanctuary is unique in that it is the first community owned and run elephant sanctuary in Africa. It is also the first to hire indigenous women to be elephant keepers. They understand that the best protectors of wildlife are often the people living closest to them.
Vital Impacts has launched a fine art print sale to support Reteti Elephant Sanctuary and this photograph is by the founder and executive director of Vital Impacts, Ami Vitale who spent 7 years documenting the remarkable story of the sanctuary and the profound bonds between the Samburu community and these elephants.
Ami offered this image in the fine-art print sale which will support urgent funding to return 13 orphans back to the wild so they can rejoin wild herds. This photograph is Vital Impacts founder Ami Vitale’s contribution to the non-profit’s upcoming fine-art print sale which will support Reteti for urgent funding to return 13 orphans back to the wild so they can rejoin wild herds. Vital Impacts is a women-led non-profit which uses art and storytelling to support people and organizations who are protecting our planet.
Follow Ami on Instagram @amivitale
15 year old Samburu girl Naltwasha LeRipe meets orphaned baby elephant Shaba at Reteti Elephant Sanctuary in Samburu’s Namunyak Wildlife Conservancy in northern Kenya, September 20, 2017. The girl and the elephant interacted naturally for just a few frames then the moment was gone.
It is the first time Naltwasha has been anywhere near this close to an elephant who are usually feared and chased away by the Samburu people as they try to protect their homesteads and livestock.
Georgina Goodwin is a documentary photographer focusing on environment, women and social issues. Georgina is known for her award-winning work covering Kenya’s post-election violence, cancer in Kenya, Westgate terror attack, and refugees in Africa.
Follow Georgina on Instagram @ggkenya
A mother and baby elephant walk along the grassland by sunset.
One of the first women photographers to work for National Geographic, Annie Griffiths has photographed in nearly 150 countries during her illustrious career. She has worked on dozens of magazine and book projects for National Geographic. Griffiths’ work has also appeared in LIFE, Geo, Smithsonian, Fortune, and Stern, among other publications.
Follow Annie on Instagram @anniegriffithsphotography
*Lead image caption:
Pushing up from its hind legs, an elephant extends its reach to grab fruit from a tree, outside Kruger National Park in South Africa. With their large size, elephants typically graze on all fours in places where food sources are more convenient, so the behavior is quite rare. I was fortunate to capture this moment at Jabulani, a preserve that’s home to a herd of elephants rescued from a life of labor in Zimbabwe and now living free.
Keith Ladzinski is a National Geographic Photographer and Emmy nominated director. His work primarily focuses on natural history, climate change, extreme sports, fine art and advertising campaigns, sending him to the furthest reaches of the 7 continents multiple times over on photo and film assignments.
Follow Keith on Instagram @ladzinski