In the mountains of northern Kenya, a Samburu community is doing something that has never been done before: they have built an elephant sanctuary for orphaned elephants. What’s so special is that its the first indigenous owned and run elephant sanctuary that rescues and raises the orphaned elephants with the ultimate goal of reintroducing them back into the wild.

But the sanctuary isn’t just about saving elephants; it’s about breaking down stereotypes and redefining wildlife management. When people realize that they can benefit from healthy elephant populations, they’re proud to take care of wildlife.

In addition to helping elephants, Reteti is also empowering Samburu women to be the first-ever women elephant keepers in all of Africa. At first, the community didn’t think there was a place for women in the workplace. Now, the success of these women elephant keepers is unlocking new possibilities and setting a powerful example for  girls hoping to pursue their dreams. It’s also changing how the community relates to elephants. Schoolchildren who have never seen an elephant before or who were afraid of elephants visit Reteti and experience these elephants up close. They then realize they can grow up to be a veterinarian or an elephant keeper.

What’s happening here, without fanfare, is nothing less than the beginnings of a transformation in the way the Samburu people relate to wild animals. This oasis where orphans grow up, learning to be wild so that one day they can rejoin their herds, is as much about the people as it is about elephants.

Since September 2016, the team at Reteti has rescued over 50 elephants and returned ten back to the wild. This is the result of a widely recognized and expanding grassroots movement of community-driven conservation across northern Kenya; a movement that is growing new economies, transforming lives and conserving natural resources.

Artist Bios

  • Ami Vitale

    Ami Vitale’s journey as a photographer and filmmaker has taken her to 94 countries, where she has witnessed civil unrest and violence but also surreal beauty and the enduring power of the human spirit. Vitale is an Ambassador for Nikon and a contract photographer with National Geographic magazine.

    Her work is exhibited around the world in museums and galleries and are part of numerous private collections. She has garnered prestigious awards, including multiple prizes from World Press Photos, the International Photographer of the Year prize, the Daniel Pearl Award for Outstanding Reporting, and Magazine Photographer of the Year by the National Press Photographers Association, among others.

    Vitale is a founding member of Ripple Effect Images, a collective of scientists, writers, photographers, and filmmakers with a mission of creating powerful stories illustrating the very specific issues women in developing countries face. She is also a member of the Executive Advisory Committee of the Alexia Foundation’s Photojournalism Advisory Board.

    Now based in Montana, Vitale continues to make films and stories of the planet’s most pressing issues and frequently gives lectures and workshops throughout the Americas, Europe, and Asia.


  • Arts Brookfield

    Arts Brookfield

    Arts Brookfield supports innovation in music, dance, theater, film, and visual art presented for free in the public spaces of Brookfield Properties, creating vibrant and valued environments for the people who work and live there every day.

The Guardian Warriors

 archive : 2023

Featuring: Ami Vitale

Presented by: Arts Brookfield
  • Arts Brookfield

Supported by:

  • Retiti Elephant Sanctuary


View Location Details Winter Garden Gallery, Brookfield Place

Brookfield Place, 230 Vesey St
New York, NY 10281

Number 75 on the official photoville map Click to download this year's map
  • Monday 10:00 am - 8:00 pm
  • Tuesday 10:00 am - 8:00 pm
  • Wednesday 10:00 am - 8:00 pm
  • Thursday 10:00 am - 8:00 pm
  • Friday 10:00 am - 8:00 pm
  • Saturday 10:00 am - 8:00 pm
  • Sunday 12:00 pm - 6:00 pm

Featuring the community and elephants of Reteti Elephant Sanctuary

This website was made possible thanks to the generous support and partnership of Photowings