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Goodbye to Stella

February 11, 2006

On Sunday, 5th February 2006, Lewa woke up to a frenzy of activity as a joint team involving the Kenya Wildlife Service and the Conservancy personnel was mobilised in an operation that was to culminate in translocation of Stella - a male black rhino to Meru National Park. Stella apparently got the feminine name a few months after birth since he remained tucked safely in thick bush and rarely came out in the open to allow determination of his sex. The few security guards who saw him reported that he was a female and hence the name.

Since Stella matured, he has made numerous attempts to assert his dominance and establish a territory between two other dominant and stronger males. As a result, he was being fought on a regular basis by the two bulls. As a result, Stella had the smallest homerange compared to all other black rhinos on Lewa. His chances of surviving on Lewa were becoming slimmer every day. We had to take quick action and transfer him to an area where pressure from other males was low and where he stood a higher chance of breeding.

We approached the Kenya Wildlife Service and they generously agreed to take Stella to Meru National Park as part of a founder population of 21 black rhinos in the Park.

Stella was immobilised from a chopper and went down in about five minutes. His horn was fitted with a transmitter that will aid his tracking on a daily basis once in Meru Park. While on the ground, vital measurements were taken, long acting antibiotics were administered and blood was drawn for haematology and biochemistry tests. Finally, he was loaded into a specially designed truck ready for the four hours drive to his new home. He was accompanied by a vet throughout the journey.

Stella is the second black rhino to be transferred from Lewa to Meru Park in the last two years. Since the establishment of Lewa, 10 black and over 20 white rhinos have been transferred from the Conservancy to restock other conservation areas in Kenya. Presently, there are 46 black and 36 white rhinos on Lewa. This is a real testament of the Conservancy as one of the successful breeding rhino sanctuaries in Kenya. By Geoffrey Chege