Saving Rhinos in Kenya

CNC report from Nairobi
Added On February 6, 2013

Ol Pejeta Conservancy located in Central Kenya is the largest black rhino sanctuary in East Africa. However since 2009, it has been home to the last northern white rhinos in the world.

STANDUP: RUTH BARU, CNC correspondent
"In the whole world there are only 7 northern white rhinos remaining. The ones you are seeing behind me Suni and Najin are among them. They are the four that were brought to Kenya here at Ol Pejeta Conservancy where they are going to be allowed to breed. Now, the conservationists say that this area that is about 140 acres has got a more suitable condition and climate for them to breed."

'Suni' weighing about 2.5 tons, comparable to the weight of a truck, is one of the largest white rhinos in the world. However, life has not been easy for the majestic animal.

Since December 2009, Suni has been trying to mate with 'Fatma' another one of the last four northern white rhinos in a bid to salvage the highly endangered species.

Richard Vigne, who is the CEO of Ol Pejeta conservancy told CNC that although the chances are very slim, it was worth a try.

"We took the last remaining four reproductively active rhinos from the zoo conditions back into the wild in Africa. The idea being that by bringing them back to Africa, we would put them into a more natural setting. Particularly more natural social setting and hopefully give them the conditions to start breeding. You know whenever a population of a species gets down to four individuals remaining the chances of saving that species to be frank is almost nil."

Mohammed Doyo who is the lead care giver of the northern whites, told CNC it took a while for the animals to get used to the natural habitat at the conservancy because they were used to life in the zoo.

"The last mating of Najin and Suni was 11th May 2012, since that time they have never done anything. I normally take their dungs and urine to see whether we have succeeded or not."

Cross breeding northern whites with southern whites is also an avenue that the conservancy has explored. They have put southern white rhinos with the northern whites for trial breeding and mating, however there are challenges.

The Urine and Dung samples are taken to South Africa for testing to see if there is conception, but so far all of the tests have come back negative.

Richard Vigne told CNC there could be other northern white rhinos in the world.

"There are other possibilities, there are possibilities that there are other northern white rhinos in the wild. There could be for example places in Sudan where these animals still exist, and we have some unsubstantiated reports which appear to indicate that."

Poaching has become rampant in the region. Reports by Ol Pejeta show that 4 rhinos have already been killed in the month of January this year. In 2012 about 15 rhinos were killed by poachers.