A Kenyan Community Helps Rhinos Come Home

The arduous 10-day effort to translocate 20 critically endangered rhinos to former rangelands in Northern Kenya is in high gear this week.

By Vicki Croke

kilifi-first meeting

Samburu warriors got to touch a rhino for the first time in their lives. In fact, they had never even seen a photo of one. They came to Lewa Wildlife Conservancy to learn about protecting these animals in advance of this week’s translocation of 20 rhinos. This photo, by Ami Vitale, won second prize in the nature category of the 2015 World Press Photo Contest, which has now been collected in a book.

Earlier this year, a photograph of Samburu warriors in Kenya touching a rhino calf for the first time in their lives won a World Press Photo award. There was sadness to the story of Kalifi the rhino—his mother had been killed by poachers—and there was sadness in the warriors’ story too—they had grown up in a once rhino-rich land that now held none.

But the inherent hope expressed in that photo—for new life and reconnection—is being realized this week. A huge and arduous 10-day effort is underway across miles of bumpy and remote roads to translocate 20 critically endangered Eastern black rhinos to lands in Samburu county in Northern Kenya that have been without the species for 25 years.

loading rhino for transport

The first black rhino, a female, is loaded into the translocation box. Courtesy of Northern Ranglands Trust.

And the hands that are captured patting Kalifi in that iconic photo will now be helping to protect the rhinos in their new turf.

It’s taken the will and commitment of a local community, several conservation organizations, three national parks, a council of elders, 20 satellite transmitters (one per animal), anti-poaching training for local rangers, to tick off a few components, to bring these magnificent rhinos, ranging in age from six to 20, to a place where the residents are banding together to receive and protect them…


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