Rangers Diary


Anthony Sheridan

Zooming in on

Europe's Zoos

Sheridan's Guide

to Europe's Zoos



2016, 466 pages, 15,5 x 23 cm, hardcover, Schüling Verlag, 29,80 Euro, ISBN 9783865230874

Again Anthony Sheridan gives us an extensive overview over the leading European Zoos, which

he is rating in updated versions of his ranking lists concerning visitor factors, education and

conservation, management and organisation.

In 2016 his survey contains around 120 Zoos in 28 countries.

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They’re like dinosaurs. With a thick hide, rough skin, and immense horn jutting out from the center of their faces, rhinos almost perfectly parallel the long extinct beasts that roamed the earth millions of years ago. Unfortunately, like dinosaurs, rhinos are also at risk. But because of efforts by people like Dennis Rotiken, they have a fighting chance of survival.

Rotiken is the lead rhino ranger at Maasai Mara National Park. For the last five years, Rotiken has been dedicated to the conservation of the Mara’s minuscule black rhino population, leading a small team of 20 rangers who monitor and protect them from the poachers. Here at the Mara, rhinos are the only species with their own security squad because they are so extremely vulnerable.

“Poachers are the most major threat to rhino populations,” states Rotiken. “Poachers do not go through the gates. The park is not fenced. So there are several parts of the park that need to be continuously protected.”

Because of poaching black rhino populations saw a steep trough in 1984, with only 18 individuals remaining. However, due to the Mara’s rhino programme, populations have steadily risen in the last 30 years but still remain very few.

“When I took over from one of the wardens who led the department, five years ago, the population was 37 rhinos but at the moment we have 54 rhinos. So I can say it’s a great achievement. It’s because of the effort because if I had not been serious about my work I could have lost many rhinos like other parks did. But I only lost one.” The programme demands incredible dedication and patience as each day Rotiken and his team set out into the Mara.

“So once a rhino is sighted, we must identify that this is a particular rhino. We have got identification marks. Many of our rhinos have got ear notches, and those that don’t have peculiar features that rangers in the field can easily identify.

“Then we take the GPS location, the position of where the rhino has been located. How long have you been observing them? What activity is the rhino undertaking? Browsing, walking, running, mating? Those are some of the activities that we must identify. We must also take a photograph of the rhino. Then after that, the data that has been collected will be entered into the system.”

In doing this, the unit becomes very familiar with the rhinos and becomes able to predict their habits. You could argue that from this consistent interaction, a relationship is built. One such bond can be perfectly exemplified by Rotiken’s relationship with Karanja, a very special Rhino in the Mara. Karanja was gifted with an abnormally long horn, which shaped his celebrity in the Mara. At 43 years of age, the rhino had lost his teeth and much of its ability to move, remaining largely stationary for months. As rumors circulated about plans to poach the horn from the debilitated rhino, Rotiken jumped into action, “then, it was my responsibility to ensure that this rhino will die a natural death.”

“I sat next to Karanja for almost a whole month. My rangers were getting me lunch at the site, getting me supper at the site, and I pitched a tent. When he moved, I moved the tent. I could not go for off days, day and night, even if it was raining heavily. Karanja died while I was sitting very close to him,” he recalls. “After Karanja’s death, the Kenya Wildlife Service’s vets came, to take the horn. And I stayed with Karanja until I did the handing over of the trophy [horn]. So it’s a moment that I will hardly forget.”

Rotiken’s work and dedication to the Mara’s rhinos is not only praiseworthy but also all the more relevant to global conservation today. Today, Kenya’s Ol Pejeta Conservancy is home to the last three Northern White rhinos. While scientists work tirelessly to encourage their reproduction, a lack of genetic diversity amongst them makes conservation efforts all the more difficult. In the next few years, the Northern White Rhino may be completely extinct.

However, maybe because of Rotiken and his rhino unit in the Mara, the black rhino will boast a different fate. Perhaps through continued support of philanthropic organizations and passionate individuals, Rotiken and his Rhino Unit can better conserve the remaining noble Black rhinos of Maasai Mara.

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The South Rift Association of Land Owners (SORALO) is a project in the South Rift valley whose mandate is to promote conservation and tourism through various projects in the region between the Maasai Mara and Amboseli as a means of enhancing the pastoral community livelihoods and promote as well as preserve their culture that is the main pillar for conservation.

MUSA MOLO,a community Game scout at Enkutoto/Elangata. Enterit Group ranch works under the SORALO conservation project. Enkutoto/Elangata Enterit Group Ranch has 4889 registered members. It is remote, marginalized and in one of the least developed part of Narok county.

As a scout he performs numerous roles which include; Carrying out anti-poaching patrols, curbing banditry, information gathering and sharing with relevant stakeholders, human/wildlife conflict mitigation and reporting as well as environmental education and community awareness about habit restoration.

Together with other scouts, Musa says that they have been able to remove a number of snares and traps set for wild animals to catch them either for meat or trophies. These scouts have also reduced logging and illegal trade of Sandalwood, especially in the lower part of Naimina Enkiyo forest with the help of the community, local administration, KWS and close partners.

According to Musa, people in that area frequently lost cows or goats to wildlife such as lion but knew nothing about compensation schemes, the group has resulted to educating the community on their entitlement to compensation and how to go about getting it.

In their day to day work, these rangers are faced with numerous challenges. Sometimes they encounter poachers who are armed and this, they say is a major security challenge. The Movement of animals through the various dispersal corridors is regular, which means that there has be constant monitoring to protect the animals. This is made extremely hard by the poor infrastructure such as roads. Lack and shortage of monitoring equipment such as binoculars and cameras is also a major challenge faced by the SORALE rangers.

Currently, the group is undertaking individual plots demarcation to ensure proper ownership of land and clear demarcation of boundaries so that they can attract public and private investors. So far, the community through their committee and other stakeholders has come up with strategies and measures to develop and conserve resources such as natural indigenous forests with abundant trees, birds and wildlife to generate income. These resources, can be in turn developed into a fully-fledged conservancy.

For the past 14 months there have been four scouts on contract with SORALO at Elangata Enterit Base, one kilometre south of Elangata Enterit. Musa maintains that their main role is to create awareness and sensitization on the potential to attract investment and generate livelihoods.

“We don’t get much attention or recognition, but we believe in our work and its potential to improve the lives of all.” Adds Musa

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