Monday, 27 April 2015

At home with the world's last male northern white rhinoceros

With rhino numbers collapsed due to poaching for their horns, a lot rides on one pampered animal in the Kenyan savannah doing his best to further the species

Murithi Mutiga in Ol Pejeta

Monday 27 April 2015 05.00 BSTLast modified on Monday 27 April 201512.18 BST

Mohamed Doyo seems to have a dream job. Every evening, he patrols the Kenyan savannah, glimpsing lions chasing down darting Thomson’s gazelles, hearing the calls of red-chested cuckoos and, when there is a full moon, seeing the majestic, snow-capped peaks of Mount Kenya in the distance.

But Doyo can scarcely stop to admire the extraordinary views because he and a large squad of rangers perform an extraordinary job: they must keep poachers away from one of the rarest species on earth, including the star attraction at the 135 sq mile conservancy, Sudan, the world’s last male northern white rhino.

“This responsibility weighs so heavily on our shoulders,” says Doyo. “It is sad what human greed has done and now we must keep watch every minute because it would be unimaginable if the poachers succeeded in killing these last few animals.”

The precipitous decline in the number of wild rhinos is the result of the dramatic rise in poaching in the 20th century.

About half a million rhinos roamed in Africa and Asia in 1900. That figure had fallen to 70,000 by 1970, with some species near to disappearing.

By 2011, the western black rhino had been declared extinct, an abrupt end to a species that had walked the earth for 5m years.

Recent conservation efforts have rallied overall rhino population numbers to 29,000, but poaching remains a real threat.

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