Save the Elephants

Date Published

Celebrating 20 years of the Elephant Scholarship Fund

When the Elephant Scholarship programme began in 2001, little did we realise how impactful it would become. Today more than 200 students have had their lives transformed from the scholarships, with many now working in wildlife conservation, education, medicine, finance, and engineering. Oria Douglas-Hamilton was inspired to start the fund while setting up Elephant Watch Camp as a place for guests to meet Samburu’s elephants and to see the work of Save the Elephants (STE). When the elders were asked what they needed most, they immediately requested education.

“The most rewarding thing is to see what education actually did for all the people who went through our programme. It’s changed their lives and it’s changed minds. It’s been such a huge success.” says Oria DouglasHamilton.

The scholarships are designed to boost bright, needy students from communities that live alongside elephants. The team works closely with local primary schools to select the best students from financially disadvantaged backgrounds. Most of the scholars are the first in their families to have gone to high school and university. Students are selected annually and enrolled into boarding schools across the country, where they can focus on their studies away from the challenges of home life. More than just tuition and school costs, the programme includes holiday tutoring, mentorship sessions and internship opportunities.


Elephant scholar, Saidimu Lesalunga, teaches students about elephants. ©George Mugera

The Elephant Scholarship footprint spans 40 primary schools and four counties across Kenya including Samburu, Isiolo, Marsabit and Taita Taveta. The generosity of our donors, 150 and growing, has made the programme possible. Some of the students to have gone far with the fund include STE’s research officer, Benjamin Loloju, who is applying skills developed from his UK Master’s degree to track elephant movement and understand their landscape. Alumnus, Zeituna Mustafa, is flexing her MSc in finance to develop microfinance for women in low-income areas, and former scholar Bernard Lesirin manages Elephant Watch Camp and acts as a three-way interpreter between international visitors, elephants and the Samburu people.


Former elephant scholar, Bernard Lesirin, who now manages Elephant Watch Camp in Samburu. ©Pete McBride

“The scholarship has truly been transformative and has opened so many doors and opportunities. It certainly gave me an opportunity to educate, participate and get more involved in what I love most which is conservation.” says Bernard Lesirin.

For communities in Samburu and Tsavo, education is allowing young people to thrive in a rapidly changing and modernising world. With your help we hope to continue inspiring more brilliant minds through the fund for the next 20 years, motivating them as future ambassadors, not just for elephants, but also their communities and natural heritage. 

To support our elephant scholarship programme, click here

elephant scholars

Elephant scholars pictured with STE’s founder, Iain Douglas-Hamilton, at our research center in Samburu during Khan Academy tuition. ©Jane Wynyard

Top image: STE’s David Daballen introduces students to the world of elephants during a field trip. ©Frank af Petersens