This is not a tip of the hat to how Facebook has become an expedient facilitator for good, keeping us informed and connected. This is a tale of how small efforts from ordinary people can transform the world and in turn, transform the transformer.
We are all aware of electric names on the world stage that easily draw attention to their noble pursuits; Bono, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Leonardo Di Caprio, etc. Their efforts are always accompanied by great fanfare and noisy attention, bringing the needed awareness to their cause. They are stars.
Let me tell you about another star. She certainly did not start out that way as she grew up in the wilds of the colonial days of East Africa. Her family members were expats from Scotland who settled in Kenya when it was still raw and untamed. As she grew up and fell in love, she followed her first husband and then second husband wherever their careers with the Kenya Wildlife Service took them. That led her to the kind of unique wildlife relationships an animal lover could only dream of. To her, it was a normal life as she learned all she could about the emergency care of anguished creatures that befell the vulgarities of the life and death struggles needed to stay clear of the African food chain. Worse yet, the deadly two-legged predators that plagued her beloved elephants.
Decade after decade saw the slaughter of mature tuskers, herd matriarchs and new moms that left their orphans calves, some only days old, to huddle in shock against the cooling carcasses of moms with massive holes in their faces, where today, chain saws hack away the ivory tusks that are a siren’s call to poachers anxious to sell to the Asian world the precious ivory nature gave the elephants to help them survive. Is there any more tragic irony than this?
Out of this adversity, Mrs. Sheldrick, a quiet Kenyan wilderness bushwife, patiently and with many tears, rescued hundreds of her beloved babies, one at a time, until her perseverance taught her the secret that eluded elephant experts everywhere. The magic formula that would enable the newborns to survive the deadly illnesses they contracted due to the fact that so many never had the chance to nurse and accumulate the necessary antibodies from their moms that were needed for survival.
Today, she is herself, the matriarch of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, named in memory of her beloved husband that tended many an orphaned baby with her.
My husband and I had the distinct pleasure to stumble on the successful orphanage over a decade ago on our first trip to Africa, when we fell in love with a tiny baby named Wendi. Wendi is the inspiration for the character of Tobi, the self-sacrificing elderly matriarch in my fourth Book, titled Hive in the series, Species Intervention #6609.
Today, the Sheldrick Trust is known world-wide for their hand-rearing of orphan elephants and rhinos. Hundreds of individuals all over the world have adopted orphans just as my husband and I did so long ago. Many of you may be familiar with Dame Daphne’s work through her many appearances on 60 Minutes, The Oprah Winfrey Show, National Geographic, The Elephant Diaries shown on Animal Planet or the 3D Warner Brothers film, Born to be Wild, shown across the world in IMAX theaters and science museums.
My husband and I had one further honor. We were invited in 2006 to attend the reception for Dame Daphne in London at The Royal Air Force Club after she was made Dame Commander of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth. Quite an honor for a woman that started out as a wilderness bushwife with a developing passion for elephants and rhinos.
We all will most likely live our lives quite differently from Dame Daphne. Our worlds are different, our responsibilities are more mundane, our spheres of influence smaller. But even in our small worlds, I see real stars. And so do you, even if you don’t recognize them. They are in your community, at your jobs and your churches. Your children went to school with their children. Maybe you went to school with them. Maybe they are even on your Facebook page.
Let me tell you about a few of the stars on my Facebook page. They post a lot. Some say too much. Some turn away and say, “Don’t depress me.” Some are touched by their posts and give verbal support. Some give desperately needed money. And some cry. I’m one of those that cry. How can anyone look into the eyes of a skeletal dog that was beaten, starved and abandoned without choking up? These stars of my Facebook page go on the front line every day to confront some of the worst victims of evil human abuse you would ever see. The deliberate pain, torture and neglect these creatures of God are assaulted with is endless and diabolical. Someone must pick up the pieces and try to put them back together. Someone must harden their heart so they can be strong as they beg for donations, homes, transport and medical care for this endless and overwhelming torrent of abused pets and wildlife.
The stars on my page might be familiar names. Linda Merkle in N.J., Tony Robertazzi in Colorado, Ian Redmond in Gloucestershire, U.K., Rhonda Baiz in Calf., Hilary Hynes, Laura Cattlerton and Jill De Opsomer in Fla., Nancy Mccracken in Utah, Coty Hohanshelt in Iowa. You don’t want Coty on your tail. She will haunt you and track you down. She deals with the worst underbelly of scum known. Her visuals are shocking and eye opening. They are meant to be. How else to break through the constant assault of our overwhelming media to be heard? And heard they must be; for they save lives. The lives of the silent intelligent creatures we call part of our families…. our pets. They do it every day as they silently cry and bleed inside. They are our quiet stars. So if you get tired of reading about the latest atrocity, scroll away. Our stars don’t need negativity, they need encouragement. And money; always money. Patching knife wounds, bullet holes and broken bones does not come cheap.
These are small heroic efforts done over and over. I see it in my small world and find it transformed. Just ask my 5 doggies. Hopefully, these stars efforts and those like them, might transform yours.
If you would like to read more about the remarkable life of Dame Daphne Sheldrick, her new book, Love, Life, and Elephants, An African Love Story can be found at Barnes and Noble or Amazon.com.