a four man anti poaching team is tasked with guarding the ol pejeta conservancy’s four remaining northern white rhinos. with only eight left, it is the world’s most endangered species. located in the laikipia district of kenya, ol pejeta conservancy is also the largest sanctuary for the black rhino. fewer than four thousand are estimated to remain.
the rise in asia’s middle class has meant that demand for rhino horn has soared, with prices on the black market exceeding that of gold and cocaine. with an increase in poaching in ol pejeta, the anti poaching team now provides twenty four hour armed protection for the rhinos, and has developed a close relationship with the animals.
poachers will track rhinos from helicopters, darting them from above and then hacking off the horn and part of the face with a chainsaw. the animals are often left to suffer and die. the rhinos seen here were found wandering in unimaginable pain, but with timely veterinary supervision remarkably survived. the rhino in the left of the fourth picture, however, had a four week old calf who, without his mother, subsequently died of dehydration.
to protect the rhinos and deter poachers, veterinarians will remove much of the animal’s horn. the rhino are anesthetized, and suffer no trauma. the horn is not like an elephant’s tusk, and will grow back in a few years.
2013 is on track to be the deadliest year yet for rhinos. two rhino are slaughtered for their horns every day on average. photos by and text adapted from brent stirton’s “rhino wars”