There was a time when Africa’s wildlife boasted at least tens of thousands of rhinos in the continent. They thrived in different parts of Africa in large numbers.
Unfortunately, as the 20th century began, the rhinoceros species have been on the brink of extinction in Africa. Between the years 1972 to 1996, 96 percent of the black rhinos were poached. The conservation of rhinos has been a wildlife issue for more than a decade.
Today, Africa has two species of rhinos, the black the white rhinos. There are an estimated 20,000 white rhinos and 5,000 black rhinos, both being critically endangered.
Rhino conservation in Kenya
After South Africa, Kenya is home to the largest rhino population. Other important countries like Namibia and Zimbabwe also houses a certain number of rhinos.
In the 1960s, Kenya was home to approximately 20,000 black rhinos. However, just two decades later, the population reduced to less than 300. This extreme reduction in the rhino species was the result of poaching, where rhinos are killed for their horns.
These horns are usually demanded by the Middle East and Chinese markets. They are used for decoration and in traditional Chinese medicine.
The black rhino population in Kenya is slowly recovering, as there are 600 black rhinos found in the country. Yet, they are still listed as critically endangered. The northern white rhinos are dangerously at the brink of extinction as only two female rhinos remain in Kenya.
The exact numbers of rhinos in Kenya are usually not declared to the public due to various security reasons.
There are several conservation efforts taken in Kenya to protect the rhinos from vanishing forever. Kenya is regarded as a pioneering sanctuary that takes great effort in protecting the rhinos. The conservation of rhino in Kenya depends upon the local community, securing its habitat and eliminating the demand for rhino horns.
Many conservatories place the animal in a fenced-off area under the surveillance of armed rangers. Cameras and drones monitor the rhino population and take immediate action whenever required.
Yet, all of this safeguarding is not devoid of its own problems. Due to the limited space provided to these animals, it becomes difficult for them to roam freely.
Rhino tourism in Kenya
Seeing a rhino in its natural habitat is a surreal experience. This also helps the tourists to absorb the need to protect rhinos and contribute to the conservation. If performed correctly, wildlife tourism can help fund conservation of rhinos in Kenya and help improve awareness.
Rules for rhino-viewing
There are no universal rules that are followed while seeing a rhino in Kenya. However, there are different instructions given by various sanctuaries to the tourists while rhino-viewing that must be followed. For example, Save the Rhino Trust (SRT) in Namibia have certain protocol while viewing rhinos in their natural surrounding. These rules are implemented to reduce human-induced disturbances.
As SRT is situated in a dry and arid place, water and food sources can be difficult to acquire. In the heat, chasing away rhinos from the only water source can result in fatal deaths. It can also affect the well-being of rhinos and their calves.
The guides leading the trips are well-trained in studying the behaviors of rhinos. They also understand when the human presence becomes troublesome for these animals.
Not all places adopt such protocols but the focus is always given to the safety and comfort of the rhinos. Whatever the rules might be, they would be clearly instructed to the tourists by the guides and educate them about the current state of the rhinos.
Places to See rhinos in Kenya
1. Nairobi National Park
Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, is one the most obvious places to view the rhino population. The Nairobi National Park successfully protects and breeds black rhinos. In the park, more than 50 black rhinos live in densities not seen anywhere else in Africa.
You can spot rhinos in the savannahs of the park with the backdrop of Nairobi’s skyscrapers.
2. Lewa Wildlife Conservancy
Lewa Wildlife Conservancy is situated in the north of the Laikipia conservation zone and shares the same ecosystem. It is one of the most important conservancies as the rhinos remaining today were protected by Lewa.
In the 1980s, Lewa’s owners and Anna Merz, a rhino conservationist, set aside private land for conservation. Nearly two dozen rhinos were raised and further translocated in assisting the rhino population in different parts of the world.
To enter the conservancy, tourists have to stay at Lewa’s top-end lodges. However, there are no restrictions in the conservancy regarding the vehicle as they can go anywhere. This proves to be an exhilarating experience as Lewa Wildlife Conservancy allows you to be very close to the rhinos.
3. Ol Pejeta Conservancy
A national park combined with a private conservatory, Ol Pejeta is the best place to spot rhinos. The 75,000 acres of land is home to 100 black rhinos.
Tourists can also visit the Endangered Species Boma which is home to two out of the six last remaining northern white rhinos. Sudan, the last breeding male left on earth, tragically passed away last year in this conservancy.
4. Il Ngwesi Group Ranch
Il Ngwesi Group Ranch is run by the local Maasai Mara community and is situated off of Lewa’s northwest border. The ranch has a small but notable number of black and white rhinos.
Il Ngewesi receives fewer tourists than Lewa Wildlife Conservancy and as a result, the meeting with rhinos can prove to be much more intimate.
5. Borana Wildlife Conservancy
An ideal habitat for the rhinos, Borana Wildlife Conservancy is now one of the world’s most important sanctuaries housing the rhino population.
The rhinos in Borana are free to breed with Lewa’s world-famous rhinos. This has created a combined population of 90 strong black rhinos.
Watching Rhinos in their natural habitat is one of the best experiences in Kenya. These rare animals are a gem of the African continent. As the poaching cases decrease, Rhino Conservation in Kenya continues to strive and protect the endangered species. As a tourist, we can always help fund these conservations and spread awareness about rhinos.
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