I recently got the chance to visit Ol Pejeta ranch in Laikipia County. Ol Pejeta is a not for profit conservancy and is the largest rhino sanctuary in East Africa. The ranch used to be owned by the multi-millionaire arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi until it was sold.

Situated on the equator between the foothills of the Aberdares range and Mt. Kenya , the 110,000 acre Ol Pejeta is the largest Black Rhino Sanctuary in East Africa.  Home to 106 rhinos, which is 17% of Kenya’s total black rhino population out of an estimated 620 black rhinos in the country. It is also home to 23 southern white rhinos. The Conservancy provides the rhino with the most favorable breeding conditions in an attempt to pull the species back from the verge of extinction. The sanctuary has specially constructed ‘game corridors’ so that all animals are free to come and go which only restricts the movement of the rhinos. By putting knee high posts in the ground close together, rhinos are unable to move out of the Conservancy, thus increasing their protection from poachers.

Ol Pejeta Conservancy_Road

 

Ol Pejeta Conservancy_Scenery

 

Ol Pejeta Conservancy_Main EntranceThe Entrance

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Ol Pejeta Conservancy_scenery (2)

There are 2 species of rhino native to Africa, the black and white rhino. I recall back when I was younger while on a school trip to the Lake Nakuru national park I was convinced that I had seen a white rhino because I thought white rhinos are actually white.  It is thought that white was a mistranslation of the Afrikaans word for ‘wide’, denoting their big, square mouth. They are grazers and their wide mouths aids in eating grass. Black rhinos on the other hand have a prehensile or hooked lip for feeding on trees and shrubs. White rhinos have bigger heads and longer necks than the blacks; the white rhinos are also slightly taller with longer tails. The white rhino is built slightly differently, with their hips lower than their shoulders, resulting in a sloped shape to their back in contrast to the blacks that have dipped backs.

Ol Pejeta Conservancy_black rhino

 

Ol Pejeta Conservancy_black rhino1 Spotted these black rhinos while we were on our way to see the last male standing

 

There are two subspecies of white rhino: the southern white rhinoceros and the northern white rhinoceros. Of the 2 subspecies the northern white rhinoceros is in dire straits – literally on the brink of extinction. The northern white rhinoceros once occurred in Chad, the Central African Republic, Sudan, Zaire, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and Uganda. As late as 1960, there were more than 2,000 northern white rhinos remaining. In 2005, four northern whites still roamed Garamba National Park, DRC, but they haven’t been seen since 2007, and the subspecies is now assumed extinct in the wild. As of now there are only 5 individuals left, 3 of these reside in Ol Pejeta.

The most famous of these individuals is Sudan who is truly the last of his kind. He is the only surviving male northern white rhino. He was born in South Sudan and spent most of his life in a zoo in the Czech Republic and in 2009 he finally came back to the ‘homeland’. He did not make this journey alone; he was accompanied by one other male Suni (now deceased) and two females Najin (Sudan’s daughter) and Fatu (Najin’s daughter).

Ol Pejeta Conservancy_Sudan5

 

I was privileged enough to visit Sudan in his enclosure. Sudan comes across as tame and rather placid. White rhinos are generally less aggressive than black rhinos and I suppose after all those years in a zoo he must be used to humans. This should however not prevent you from exercising caution, at the end of the day he is still a wild animal.

Ol Pejeta Conservancy_Sudan.

 

Ol Pejeta Conservancy_Sudan

 

His keepers advised us that if he starts walking towards you or charges shouldn’t flee. You should walk away slowly while calling out his name. Thankfully there was no need to put their advice into use. He was calm throughout the whole encounter and we were even able to take photos with him albeit from a safe distance.

Ol Pejeta Conservancy_Sudan2

 

 

Sudan is under armed guard 24/7.

Ol Pejeta Conservancy_Sudan1

 

Unfortunately I do not have any up close photos of Najin and Fatu. We were unable to get close to their enclosure because of the color of our vehicle; apparently they are not too fond of the color white.

Ol Pejeta Conservancy_white rhino1

 

Ol Pejeta Conservancy_white rhino2I’m no expert so the rhino above is either Najin or Fatu

 

Ol Pejeta Conservancy_white rhino3

 

After visiting Sudan we then went on to see Baraka (Swahili word for blessings). Baraka is a 21yr old male black rhino. He was born on the ranch to one of their most prolific breeders and was sadly blinded at the age of 13. He got into a fight with is younger brother over territory and lost one eye. The other eye got infected with cataracts and by the time it was discovered it was too late for treatment. He is now housed in a 100 acre enclosure.

Ol Pejeta Conservancy_Baraka

 

Baraka seemed placid given his species reputation. He seemed disinterested in us but his keepers managed to lure him to the platform with food – even animals love a good treat. He has not always been this ‘tame’. When he first started living in his enclosure the keepers would leave a radio playing  on the platform so that he would get used to the sound of human voices. Whenever he approached the radio he would be fed. Over time he got used to the sound of the radio and began to associate human voices with food. I got the chance to feed him.

Ol Pejeta Conservancy_SudanFeeding Baraka

 

Ol Pejeta Conservancy_Baraka2

 

Ol Pejeta Conservancy_Baraka3

 

What I found interesting is that he has what I would call a litter ‘box’. Right next to his platform is an area filled with rhino poop, despite not being trained he literally poops in the same spot

Ol Pejeta Conservancy_Baraka1Top right hand corner of the picture is where he chooses to poop

 

After getting to spend time with Sudan and Baraka we were given a tour of the security centre. There is a dedicated force of 32 armed and a canine anti-poaching unit.  The highly trained dedicated force, watch over the conservancy. Particular attention is paid to the rhinos. The rangers patrol in two’s, each of the 100 black rhinos must be sighted at least once every 3 days, If not then there is cause for alarm.

Ol Pejeta Conservancy_security team

 

Ol Pejeta Conservancy_security1

 

I also got to see the canines in action.

Ol Pejeta Conservancy_attack dog

 

Ol Pejeta Conservancy_attack dog1The guy in the suit was acting as a poacher.

 

The introduction of armed guards has greatly reduced the incidents of poaching at Ol Pejeta. The last incident was on the 20th of March last year.

Ol Pejeta Conservancy_Morani Tree

 

Ol Pejeta Conservancy_Morani MemorialMemorial site for rhinos that were poached or died due to natural causes

Ol Pejeta is a not-for-profit organization – any surplus is re-invested. The ranch mainly survives on funds from tourism and also has a cattle ranch. Securing the wildlife from poachers especially the rhinos is their most costly expense (running into millions of dollars), so every penny helps. So if you’re interested in donating I will leave a link at the end of this post.

Please note that the Ol Pejeta Conservancy does not provide vehicles for game drives. You can come in your own vehicle or contact your camp / lodge to find out if a vehicle is included in your accommodations for more information you can check out their site here.

The conservation fees are as follows. You can find all the other charges here

Ol Pejeta conservancey_rates

 

 

 

 

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Ol Pejeta and I wold love to go back. I also can’t wait to share with you the rest my experiences during my time there.

I was able to visit Ol Pejeta courtesy of the management. Huge thanks to Ivy for being a gracious host. I was not alone and you can read my fellow bloggers accounts here: Owaah 1, 2 and Sharon 1

 

SUPPORT OL PEJETA.

 Ol pejeta conservancy_donate

 

 

 

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26 Comments

  1. June 27, 2015 at 9:57 am — Reply

    Quite distressing that an armed security force is needed to protect the rhino’s, though obviously very necessary. Again you are an amazing photographer.
    Paula McInerney recently posted…Graduating from the Paella Academy in Valencia, SpainMy Profile

  2. June 27, 2015 at 10:57 am — Reply

    Ol Pejeta sounds like a wonderful project. It is such a sad reality that requires them to keep such well-armed guards there to protect these majestic animals. I would love to visit.

    Yay! #wkendtravelinspiration
    Corinne recently posted…Weekend Travel Inspiration – Rick StevesMy Profile

  3. June 27, 2015 at 4:43 pm — Reply

    I’ve been reading Alexander McCall-Smith’s kids books to my daughter and they paint some nice, kid friendly images of Africa and its landscape. Those books and your posts definitely have Africa starting to call to me.
    eileen @ FamiliesGo! recently posted…WTI: Our Favorite Lake Placid Family Dining SpotsMy Profile

  4. June 28, 2015 at 2:36 am — Reply

    I just learned more about rhinos than I’ve learned in my previous seventy years. What wonderful pictures and and descriptions! I hope you are able to spend full time traveling someday.
    Barbara Radisavljevic recently posted…Flowers in Bloom in April in Paso Robles?My Profile

    • June 28, 2015 at 1:08 pm — Reply

      Thanks Barbara, I am still working on achieving that dream. I am glad that you’ve learnt something.

  5. June 28, 2015 at 8:37 am — Reply

    This looks like such a fascinating place to visit. That little tidbit about how the keep a game corridor with the knee-high fence posts is so interesting. I think I may have been scared getting that close to Sudan. You are brave. Are they trying to breed Sudan so that his species can continue? I’m glad that Ol Pejeta is able to have armed guards for these rhinos. It’s a sorry state of the world when that type of protection is necessary.
    Michele {Malaysian Meanders} recently posted…Postcards from Intramuros, a Spanish walled city in the PhilippinesMy Profile

    • June 28, 2015 at 9:27 am — Reply

      Due to his old age Sudan’s sperm is not viable so saving the species through natural methods is not an option. Biologists think in vitro fertilization might be the only way to keep the species alive. Sperm has been saved and frozen, and female southern white rhinos may serve as surrogate mothers if any embryos become viable.

  6. Mike
    June 29, 2015 at 3:30 am — Reply

    Hi Rachael! I wanted to stop by and say hi even though I’m still on a leave of absence from blogging. I love your pictures as always and I will always be a subscriber, my friend! I hope you are doing really well and miss you 🙂

    • June 30, 2015 at 6:55 pm — Reply

      Mike! You’ve been missed. I’m doing well, hope you are too. Come back soon.

  7. June 29, 2015 at 3:14 pm — Reply

    How horrible that we need armed security to protect those magnificent creatures :-(. I hate poachers. Your pictures once again are fantastic. The memorial to the lost rhinos is very moving, and how nice to hear about the toilet trained..hah hah. I can’t even get my dog to do that! Even though l would love to visit this place, l don’t think l could be brave like you and feed a rhino :-).
    Kemkem recently posted…Cost of living in Seville, SpainMy Profile

    • June 30, 2015 at 7:03 pm — Reply

      Ha ha! Maybe you need to get Cesar Milan to come train your dog. It actually was not scary at all feeding Baraka. We were on a platform and I felt pretty safe, I’m sure if you were given the chance to feed him you’d feel the same way too.
      Rachael recently posted…Ol Pejeta Conservancy – where the Rhino rulesMy Profile

  8. Manesha
    June 29, 2015 at 5:07 pm — Reply

    Sigh..this post just created a longing…we need to visit together next time. I am chaffed at the thought of poachers in our country, doing damage. We can try and support Ol Pejeta best we can.

  9. Kenimoja
    June 29, 2015 at 5:57 pm — Reply

    Excellent post, Ol Pejeta looks like one awesome place but expensive too. Reading about poachers makes me sick!!! they must have very strong connections or lots of money to attempt poaching at such a place. BTW those are those wild dogs?

    • June 30, 2015 at 6:59 pm — Reply

      LOL. No, they’re not wild dogs. They’re a breed that make very good attack dogs, sadly I can’t remember the name of the breed. Ol Pejeta is a bit pricey but then again so are most conservancies. I wouldn’t mind paying that much though, after all at David Sheldrick you do pay 500 bob to watch elephants being fed for about an hour. I think the entry fee is worth it.
      Rachael recently posted…Ol Pejeta Conservancy – where the Rhino rulesMy Profile

  10. June 30, 2015 at 1:26 am — Reply

    Such an emotional post. In one sense I am happy the rhinos are being protected and hopefully returned from near extinction, but on the other hand it is so sad that they need that much protection. The dogs scare me, but I guess that is the idea. Your photos are beautiful, and your post will help draw attention and maybe help save more rhinos.
    Rhonda Albom recently posted…Planting Day Replenishes the Native Bush to Auckland ParksMy Profile

  11. Brad Western
    July 1, 2015 at 9:10 pm — Reply

    In South Africa matters are dire ….

    An excerpt from the Guardian website
    Home to 80% of the planet’s rhino population, South Africa is currently experiencing a poaching epidemic. Last week, South Africa’s environment minister revealed that a record 393 animals were killed in the country’s Kruger National Park between January and April of this year. The animals’ horns fetch a high price – $65,000 for just over 2lb – in markets such as China and Vietnam, where rhino horn is an ingredient in traditional medicines. Illegal rhino killings increased 20% in 2014, with 1,215 rhinos dead.

    • July 2, 2015 at 4:26 pm — Reply

      I just had a look at the stats and so far 393 rhinos have been poached this year in South Africa. I do hope that they find a way to stop this menace.

  12. July 2, 2015 at 7:28 am — Reply

    I loved learning all about the black and white rhinos. I’m so glad a conservancy like this place exists to protect the rhinos. I have heard of Sudan’s story and how amazing for you to have seen him up close. Beautiful photos!
    Mary {The World Is A Book} recently posted…Bora Bora: Snorkeling with Sharks and StingraysMy Profile

    • July 2, 2015 at 4:18 pm — Reply

      Thanks Mary. If it weren’t for such conservancies then there wouldn’t be much hope for the species.

  13. July 7, 2015 at 1:59 am — Reply

    Wow – they’re doing such great work at Ol Pejeta. It’s so ironic that the land used to be owned by an arms dealer. It’s so incredibly sad that rhinos have been hunted to the brink of extinction. Humans are literally destroying the planet and it’s so sad, but this is a place that I’d definitely support with my tourist dollars!
    Dana Carmel @ Time Travel Plans recently posted…Why I’m Sick of Travel Blog FluffMy Profile

  14. July 11, 2015 at 3:31 pm — Reply

    This place is so serine

  15. August 1, 2015 at 4:30 pm — Reply

    […] Sweetwaters Camp lies at the centre of the 110,000-acre Ol Pejeta Conservancy, in the Laikipia plains 17 kilometres from Nanyuki and 217 kilometres from Nairobi. Ol Pejeta is a […]

  16. September 19, 2015 at 11:35 am — Reply

    […] This post has been a long time coming. If you missed out on my last post about Ol Pejeta you can catch it here. […]

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