In the 1970’s there were elephant, black rhino and Grevy zebra in abundance throughout the vast northern frontier district of Kenya. In 1977, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda announced a ban on all forms of game hunting and as the hunting parties withdrew, so the lawless bandits from Somalia moved in. By 1984 there were no rhino left in the Mathews range of Kenya. Elephant numbers had dwindled to a few scattered herds running from thicket to thicket in fear of their lives, and the beautiful Grevy zebra had been eliminated; more than 30,000 animals poached in just eight years. It was uncertain whether any black rhinos would survive in Kenya. Poaching for horn had reduced Kenya’s rhinos from some 20,000 in the mid-1970s to a few hundred by 1986.
Also known as the Lenkiyio Hills this area is isolated, and holds forests of juniper and cycads. It is still thankfully home to elephants and other large mammals, and was one of the last places in northern Kenya to offer shelter to wild Black Rhinos. The Mathew’s are also home to the Samburu people. The mountain range is a sky island, surrounded by plains, with Ndoto Mountains to the north and the Karisia hills to the west. Sky islands are isolated mountains surrounded by radically different lowland environments. Such isolation has significant implications for these natural habitats. A number of the species in the Mathew’s have evolved independently and the diversity of the high altitude forest is of great conservation value.
I’m indebted to Jeremy and Katie from Sara Camp for flying me round these mountains well before the sun was up on several occasions – I’ll be working in this incredible part of the world for the next few weeks
I’m delighted to be supporting and contributing work to this feed. This is an exciting development for the feed and brings the message about the global biodiversity extinction crisis to the publication’s substantial audience. Increasing dialogue in the mainstream media about this issue was one of our initial goals and we’re starting to make headway in this area. Thanks, as ever, to all the contributors and supporters who are making this a success, but most of all to Sean Gallagher who’s selfless work and dedication has got us to this point. Everyday Extinction features the work from 25 wildlife photographers, photojournalists and scientists, we aim to highlight species extinction and celebrate this wonderful planets biodiversity.
The image here shows a member of Lewa Conservancies specialist anti poaching team standing guard over a black rhino killed moments earlier by poachers, and is continued work from the project ‘with butterflies and warriors’ – Due to the extremely fast response of the security teams, the poachers fled the scene without recovering the rhino’s horn. The threat from poaching has put rhino populations across the continent under immense pressure. For conservancies, national and private reserves that hold any rhino, the key to ensuring the survival of their populations, and in effect the species, is the provision of adequate security. Since this incident in 2013 the conservancy has not lost a single rhino to poaching. Lewa’s success in rhino conservation can greatly be attributed to the efficiency, discipline and timely intervention of its security teams – in 2014, a record 1,215 rhinos were slaughtered for their horns in South Africa – and at the same time, 42 poachers were killed by rangers and police. This bloody conflict is fueled by the mistaken belief in Asia that rhino horn cures cancer, and it’s growing more intense every year.
Please follow the feed @everydayextinction – extinction is forever – here’s a link to the gallery on the Guardian site – https://www.theguardian.com/environment/gallery/2018/feb/07/instagram-feed-shows-everyday-extinction-in-pictures
They scare me to absolute death, and I love them to bits in equal measure. There is nothing that frightens me as much as that close proximity deep growl, particularly when in a tent at night.
I’ve tracked them, documented the capture of them, relocated them, seen them trapped and tortured, and watched hunters hold them aloft. We pretty much can’t fence them, or defend ourselves from them. They are wild, truly wild and I love them.
“I’ve always felt that Sir David Attenborough is part of my family, an uncle maybe, who traveled the World bringing stories of other Worlds to us. He’d talk to us through that magic window, presenting us with all manner of marvelous creatures seemingly known only to him.
Many years, and a lifetime later, I found myself sitting in a Land Rover listening to that voice of reason; now I understand far more of the world than I did then. The world has changed immeasurably, but the man remains constant, a bright light that we should all follow.
It’s clear, if we do not lead by example, and therefore as a result our children are not taught that it’s not our God given right to take what we want, then what hope for the myriad of creatures who inhabitant this planet alongside us?
I’ve walked these hills now. I’ve followed in the footsteps of a game keeper with four generations of knowledge passed from father to son, and father to son once more. Imagine that, at best estimate almost 200 years of knowledge and understanding of the nature of what is – and what is required, of these extraordinary lands. I’m humbled by the depth of his understanding and knowledge of these lands. We must listen to those who’s blood runs through this land, the blood of four generations. I’ll be bringing more from here over the coming months, and hopefully, as a result, understand more about our increasingly complex relationship with wildlife. The challenges we face in order to maintain the habitat on which wildlife does not simply survive, but flourish, under the stewardship of those who truly understand the significance of these spaces, not those who manage from afar, but those with the smell of fresh air, wind, rain, and moss on their clothes.
Humbled by this wild and beautiful place.
I’ve been working in Liwonde National Park, Malawi, with an elite team of specially trained British soldiers, known as CPO’s (counter poaching operatives) who alongside rangers from African Parks are combating the soaring illegal wildlife trade.
Worth an estimated £17bn a year, poaching and trafficking is pushing species towards extinction, fueling corruption and funding organised crime and terrorism. The British Army’s involvement is thanks, in part, to the Prince of Wales. A lifelong conservationist, his Charitable Foundation funded counter-poaching trial in 2015, in which rangers were trained using British military techniques. The trials success led to the development of the CPO team in Malawi.
The CPO’s patrol with the extraordinarily dedicated team of rangers from African Parks for six days at time, living entirely in the bush.
Liwonde’s 57000 hectares are home to a spectacular array of wildlife, including African elephant, and black rhino, both subject to intense poaching pressure.
African elephant numbers across the continent have slumped to 350,000 from an estimated 5m at the beginning of the 20th century. The population declined by 30% between 2007-2014, largely due to poaching; approx 20,000 killed every year for their tusks.
There are currently only about 5000 black rhino left in Africa; on average 1 rhino is killed every 8 hours by a poacher.
Humbling to work alongside Roya Nikkhah and witness this extraordinary selfless dedicated group of individuals pushing back against the tide of poaching, and for many species the inevitable race towards extinction. Thanks also to Russ O’Connell at the Sunday Times Magazine for presenting the opportunity for me to look at this.
Published in the magazine today and available everywhere online.