A small locally owned elephant sanctuary in Kenya is fast approaching the time when it waves goodbye to latest cohort of graduates.
Thirteen orphaned elephants will be released back into the wild from the Reteti Sanctuary in the coming months, but they are short of funds to ensure the process will go smoothly.
Vital Impacts, a non-profit organisation using art and storytelling to support conservation, is making a push to raise money for the sanctuary through the sale of incredible wildlife and nature-focussed photographs.
Over 100 photographers have donated their work for Reteti’s cause, a cause that Vital Impacts co-founder and award-winning photographer Ami Vitale has been working on for over seven years.
Vitale released a film in 2021 on the work of the sanctuary telling the story of a young female elephant and the extraordinary bond she formed with other orphans and the people who rescued her.
“Shaba arrived traumatised after poachers shot her mother dead,” Vitale said. “This is a story about learning to trust those that we fear. She teaches us about love and our connections to all of life around us.”
The film went on to win several awards and raised substantial funds to provide Reteti with essential supplies.
“Reteti Elephant Sanctuary is the first indigenous-owned and run elephant sanctuary in Africa,” said Vitale. “We were able to raise an astonishing US$250,000 [NZ$405,373] … to buy milk, blankets and medicines to support the baby elephants and the people who have committed their lives to protecting them.”
That amazing effort ensured the young elephants were able to grow and thrive. But they have now reached the time to rejoin wild herds.
Within its first year, Vital Impacts transformed a startup grant of US$25,000 into more than US$2million from the sale of fine art prints and fundraising. The profits were passed onto unique conservation and humanitarian efforts around the globe including Jane Goodall’s Roots and Shoots programme, Big Life Foundation, Great Plains Conservation’s Project Ranger, SeaLegacy, and Direct Relief.
They’ve gone on to provide over (US) half-a-billion dollars in medical equipment to war-torn regions, support the salaries and equipment of 60 rangers, create a monitoring programme for pangolins, fund a salmon action platform, finance films, and create a yearlong storytelling mentorship for 40 Kenyan conservationists.
The latest Vital Impacts drive for Reteti brings the work of over 100 photographers for sale to the public with all profits going directly to the sanctuary.
Award-winning photographers such as Reuben Wu, Nick Brandt, Jimmy Chin, Tamara Dean, Adeolu Osibodu, Beth Moon, Joel Sartore, Andy Mann, Steve Winter, Bertie Gregory, Evgenia Arbugaeva, Keith Ladzinski, Michael Yamashita, whose work can be found in the most prestigious magazines and on gallery walls around the world have contributed to the cause.
Additionally, Michael “Nick” Nichols is offering his iconic image of environmentalist Jane Goodall encountering Jou Jou at the Brazzaville Zoo in the Republic of Congo which Jane has personally signed.
And Vitale’s short film can be viewed online, for a small fee, for viewers to gain an insight into the sanctuary’s work.
“We need to take care of this planet and to protect existing habitats,” Vitale said. “Our own health and destiny are intricately connected to the natural world and impacted by the loss of species. When we see ourselves as part of the landscape and part of nature, then we recognise that saving nature is really about saving ourselves.”
To buy prints go to vitalimpacts.org, to watch Ami Vitale’s film Shaba visit vitalimpacts.org/products/shaba-a-film-by-ami-vitale and to view the work of the Reteti Elephant Sanctuary: www.reteti.org.