KWS FINALLY ACTS ON RHINO KILLING SPREE
China, thought to be the main driver for demand in rhino horn, over its alleged but sadly mistaken ‘properties’ to revive ‘ageing men’, is coming under renewed scrutiny and attack by wildlife conservationists, as poaching of rhinos in Kenya is reaching a new level again.
Last year over 330 rhinos were poached in South Africa, and government there is doing little apparently as the trend has shot up to over 200 in the first half of this year, threatening the entire species with extinction.
In Eastern Africa, rhinos are now also being poached, and Ol Pejeta has been hit twice, as was the Solio Game Reserve and the Mt. Kenya Game Ranch.
Earlier this week has KWS finally acted to dispatch a task force into the wider Laikipia area, where the three affected conservancies are located, attempting to gather intelligence allowing them to catch the gangs, which according to lastest news from the area is now using highly sophisticated rifles which are also threatening rangers and wardens who have either shotguns or old style repeat rifles only to defend the wildlife and themselves. Outgunned comes to mind, making the need for greater anti poaching efforts by government all the more important.
Shootouts are becoming more regular, across Kenya, as organized gangs of poachers are let loose by their financial backers, who reap huge profits from the blood ivory and rhino horn, but also from lion bones and skins, for which demand is said to continue rising too.
Ol Pejeta is the one and only place in Africa where the rarest of rhinos, the Northern White, are being kept after four of a total of eight were sent to Kenya by the Czech government – the remaining four are thought to be too old to breed already – and efforts are underway to preserve the species by having the animals reproduce, either outright or via their Southern White ‘cousins’. All wild populations of the Northern White, the last thought to have been resident at the Garamba National Park in Eastern Congo, have been poached to extinction as no evidence of sightings from the air or on the ground have been found for several years now. There are presently about 100 Eastern Black, Southern White and the four Northern White rhinos on Ol Pejeta besides plenty of other game, including elephant, buffalo, giraffes, plains game, the rare hybrid zebras ‘made’ between the much rarer Grevy’s Zebras and the more commonly found ‘Burchell’s Zebra’ only found in this ‘boundary’ area between Northern and Central Kenya. A dedicated chimpanzee sanctuary is located on Ol Pejeta too, offering sightings of these predators in the wild, which however are not generally found in Kenya making this again a unique place to watch them. Predators like lions, leopard, cheetah, hyenas, foxes and others too are found in plenty, and the cattle are protected overnight by traditional ‘boma’ methods.
The Ol Pejeta rangers have been and continue to be on high alert and the four Northern White rhinos are protected like Fort Knox, but owing to the very large size of the conservancy, sprawling over tens of thousands of acres, it is possible, as the recent poaching cases show, that well organized intruders with vehicle and communications back up, can get it, do their bloody work and get away again.
Ol Pejeta, visible via www.olpejetaconservancy.org has only yesterday sent out a series of tweets highlighting the loss of one of the conservancy’s most favourite rhinos, and they can be followed on Twitter too of course via @OlPejeta – meanwhile though, Ol Pejeta remains one of the ‘must see’ conservancies within easy reach of Nairobi. Ol Pejeta can be accessed by road within a few hours from the capital city, and is connected by air through the Nanyuki airfield but also their own airstrip on the conservancy, which is being used by some of the airlines flying tourists from Wilson Airport. With the backdrop of Mt. Kenya making for the scenic side of things, the presence of self catering accommodation, camp sites and safari lodge / camps Ol Pejeta offers an all round appeal to tourists from overseas and from Kenya and the wider East Africa overall. And with the big five all found on the conservancy, this IS the place to go if time is short and but the interest for a safari is keen. Ol Pejeta comes highly recommended, from personal experience by this correspondent and is worth not just a visit but ought to be given consideration too for conservation donations to maintain the level of work they are doing.