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Lekupanai

Told with compassion and intimacy, here is a story of one man, but it’s also the story of so much more. It’s the story of heartfelt empathy and gentle guidance. A man who has never lost an animal under his care. He is famously know as Lekupanai 53 years of age, with 10years of experience as wildlife keeper.

Photo by Ami Vitali

“I have worked for Sarara Camp for 7 years. I came in as a waiter but over time promoted to taking care of wild animals…”  he continues, ” … we once had dik-dik that gave birth in Katie’s house (Reteti Co-founder) and later died and due to hunger the dik-dik babies came out from the hiding and from then they never left our sight. We loved and took care of them. That’s where my passion sparked. The babies would follow me to the my house. It really felt good.” 

After a while there was a continuous flow of injured and abandoned animals from baby tigers to zebras,10 Kudus of them to elephants in Sarara. The community would inform them of an abandoned/separated elephant calf -rescue -try reunite a calf firsthand more than three times before calling the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust or Kenya wildlife service to help the baby elephant. Reteti did not exist at that moment. For a great deal of time Lekupanai took care of baby giraffes which were later released back to the community conservation area Namunyak Conservancy.

Out of such rescues, long conversations began between the local community and government authorities with support from Stakeholders for an elephant orphanage. Reteti Organization was formed and in one and half year later Lekupanai with his skills was transferred to Reteti employed as an elephant keeper. 

“There’s a lot difference between a giraffe and an elephant, an elephant is like a human being. It would cry after seconds of leaving it and hardly sleep without my presence. The first baby elephant I was introduced to take care of was Kapai. I would treat her like my child. I wouldn’t love to see my children suffer after my death. Out of my experience with animals, I knew the only path to their survival is LOVE .” Lekupanai

The life of lekupanai involves understanding and endless patience of encouraging an orphan to make the effort to try and live. Him being from the local pastrolist community of the samburu’s , taking care of the animals was and is part and parcel of his life. He say’s the secret to keeping this animals alive is to practice patience and “unflinching work ethic” with compassion to a promotion of shared devotion between a man and an animal fostered through a language that transcends barriers: love.

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