Two weeks at Save the Elephants


Celia O’Brien, International Intern

Date Published

My name is Celia O’Brien. I’m from Washington, DC, and I’m going into my senior year in high school. This June was my third time visiting Samburu. The first time I came on safari with my family, the second I spent lots of my time interning at Elephant Watch camp. I also spent a few exciting days at STE, where I joined the team to find a poached elephant’s carcass. Another day, we helped tranquilize a wounded elephant so a vet could give her medicine. After that trip I realized that I want to pursue a career in wildlife conservation. So I was thrilled to be back in Samburu for two weeks this June, learning more and more each day about working in the field and doing lots of monitoring and research.

When I first arrived, George Wittemyer gave me the job of making a slideshow of elephant family trees. Some of the families on it included the Swahilis, American Indians, Planets, Poetics, and others. This was very cool for me to see because I’d seen lots of these elephants on my previous trips. If an elephant had died, an “X,” whose color indicated how the elephant died, was next to its name. It was sad to see how many have been poached recently, but very interesting at the same time to see the family structures and lifespans of various elephants. It also showed me how the elephants are named and identified.

This helped me on the daily monitoring drives that I took with Sarah Jacobson, Shifra Goldenberg, the two STE interns, as well as Jerenimo and Daudi. Whenever we saw a herd of elephants I would sketch as many pairs of ears as I could to help me learn which elephants were which; by the end of my two weeks there I could identify a few elephants on my own (a small feat for anyone else but something I’m nonetheless proud of). I also put lots of mammal census data collected earlier this year into a spreadsheet. Jerenimo asked me to do the same with some bull data he’d collected throughout the year. These showed which bulls were seen and how often, whether they were in musth, etc. It was so interesting to see which bulls were most often seen in the park, and it made it that much more exciting when I actually saw one of them.

Though my two short weeks in Samburu flew by, I learned so much and gained some really wonderful experience working in this field. I’m so happy I got the chance to keep pursuing my interest in wildlife research and conservation; I could not have asked for a better place to go to learn. I absolutely loved my time and hope I’ll be back again soon!