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In a concerted effort to safeguard the critically endangered black rhinos, a total of 12 individuals have been carefully translocated from Lewa Conservancy to Loisaba Conservancy in Laikipia County. This group forms a vital part of a broader translocation initiative, which encompasses a total of 21 rhinos sourced from various locations. Among these, six rhinos were sourced from Ol Pejeta Conservancy, while the remaining three originated from Nairobi National Park.

Lewa-based Kenya Wildlife Service veterinarian Dr. Matthew Mutinda monitors a rhino at the conservancy as a helicopter herds it away from the team attending to a nearby tranquillized rhino. (©Lewa Wildlife Conservancy/Jeff DeKock)

The triumphant return of black rhinos to Loisaba signifies a remarkable milestone, marking their resurgence after a tragic decline due to poaching in the 1970s. To ensure the well-being of the translocated rhinos, the sanctuary has implemented stringent security measures and unobtrusive fencing. These precautions not only provide a secure environment for the rhinos but also enable the free movement of other wildlife species. Leading this effort is Daniel Sotian Yiankere, whose 24 years of invaluable experience in the Kenya Wildlife Service, spanning various roles in numerous Game Reserves and Parks across the country, lends unparalleled expertise to the conservation endeavour.

The rhinos’ return has garnered enthusiastic support not only from conservationists but also from the local community in Laikipia. Community leader Mathew Naiptari expressed his optimism, stating, “Rhinos coming to Loisaba will benefit us as a community. They will boost ecotourism while preserving and protecting the landscape, which is culturally so important to us.”

Women of the Ewaso community line the street to greet a convoy carrying 3 eastern black rhinos as they arrive at Loisaba Conservancy in Laikipia, Kenya, on January 23, 2024. (© Ami Vitale / The Nature Conservancy)

This translocation effort reflects Kenya’s success in quadrupling the population of eastern black rhinos from below 400 individuals in the mid-1980s to approximately 1,004 individuals today. Kenya’s National Black Rhino Action Plan advocates for a sustainable population of at least 2,000 eastern black rhinos, a goal the government is steadfastly committed to achieving. With only 5,550 black rhinos remaining worldwide, Kenya’s successful conservation programme positions it as the third-largest contributor to the species’ population, following South Africa and Namibia.

A black rhino named Ushindi leaves her crate after being captured and transported from Ol Pejeta Conservancy to Loisaba Conservancy in Laikipia, Kenya, on January 18, 2024 (Ami Vitale/The Nature Conservancy).

Dr. Dominic Maringa, Head of Conservation and Wildlife at Lewa had this to say at the conclusion of the exercise: “This translocation showcases our unwavering commitment to securing the future of these iconic animals and underscores the collaborative approach to safeguarding Kenya’s natural heritage. Together, we strive to create a harmonious environment where wildlife can flourish, ensuring a legacy of conservation for generations to come.”

Photo Credits: Ami Vitale & Jeff DeKock

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