2018 Photo Contest, Nature, 1st prize

Warriors Who Once Feared Elephants Now Protect Them


Ami Vitale

15 February, 2017

An older elephant shows younger orphans how to take a dust bath, at the Reteti Elephant Sanctuary, in northern Kenya. A coating of dirt protects elephants against the sun and insects.

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.

About the photographer

Ami Vitale

Ami Vitale is a photographer, writer and filmmaker currently based in Montana. She is an Ambassador for Nikon and a contract photographer with National Geographic magazine. ...

Technical information

Shutter Speed
Focal length
70.0 mm

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