The Journey Of The Youngest Elephant Scholar


By Connie Makandi, Conservation Education Officer

Date Published

It has been a year since the witty Jackson Lembei had an unfortunate incident, where an elephant attacked him when he was out in the field herding his uncle’s goats. This unfortunate accident left Jackson with a broken arm, a slight head injury and what became a turning point in his life. It was the end of his life as a herd’s boy and the beginning of another as an elephant scholar.

The life of a herd’s boy is as adventurous as it is risk-bound especially for a ten-year old like Jackson herding in an area that roams free with both livestock and wildlife. In pastoralist households in Northern Kenya, warriors herd cows while the very young boys herd cows and girls are left to take care of goats, sheep and calves. Often, children left such responsibilities end up missing out an opportunity to go to school. This was the life of Jackson had led before this accident, where an elephant flung him a few feet across with its trunk. The impact was so enormous that Jackson hit the ground so hard and lost consciousness. Fortunately, the staff at Elephant Watch Camp heard his screams and came to his rescue. At that time, one amazing guest, Frauke Buerhing, took interest in Jackson’s life. She not only funded his medical expenses, but also ensured that Jackson got an opportunity to enroll in school. Now a current student in Standard One, Jackson is fully recovered and very determined to learn. Last month, he had an amazing experience when he met his very loving sponsor at the Elephant Watch Camp.

Born in Loruko, a village that borders the Samburu National Reserve, Jackson has lived all his life in the Samburu-Isiolo Conservation Area. His mother has struggled over the years with a mental illness, which has been worsened by the pressure to provide for her seven children. For Jackson, the struggle led him to seeking other options to earn a living at such a tender age – which is why he spent part of his childhood looking after livestock.

As he currently spends his days learning and playing happily with his mates, Jackson continues to champion for conservation! In addition to his incredible academic progress, he also uses his voice as a child to advocate for protection of elephants. In a charm and humor-filled story, Jackson narrated how he stood up for marauding elephants in his village, convincing his neighbors not to hurt them. Such courage and motivation from our youngest Elephant Scholar is what makes the Education Programme worthwhile!