QUALITY TIME WITH NAJIN AND SUNI
Then I get to meet Najin and Suni, two of the world’s remaining seven Northern White Rhinos – representing one of the most endangered species on the planet. The Northern White Rhino once roamed through Congo, Uganda, and Sudan, but now only seven remain, four of which are at Ol Pejeta.
The four Northern Whites were translocated to Ol Pejeta in December of 2009 from a zoo in the Czech Republic in a last attempt to save the species. They have been totally decimated in the wild, due to poaching fueled by demand for rhino horn for traditional medicinal uses in Asia.
The transfer was aimed at providing the rhinos with the most favorable breeding conditions in an attempt to pull the species back from the verge of extinction. It was thought that the climatic, dietary and security conditions that the rhinos will enjoy at Ol Pejeta will provide them with higher chances of starting a population in what is seen as the very last lifeline for the species.
Because they were animal zoos all of their lives, these rhinos are easily approachable. This is how I’m able to get so close to them. Don’t try this at home!
I meet Najin and Suni with their keeper Mohammed. I’m even able to feed hay to them and tickle behind their ears. It’s clear these are Mohammad’s babies. He dotes on them and if anything happened to them he would be heartbroken.
These are immense and powerful creatures. As one of them pushes me, I’m reminded of the immense pressure I used to feel when I had to guard Shaquille O’Neal. You knew that pressure while guarding Shaq, and you know it when a rhino leans on you.
But this power is meaningless in the face of a poacher’s bullet or wire snare. To make them less of a target, they have been dehorned – a painless process removing the top of the horn, but because there is still a substantial nub they are still under constant threat.
It’s tragic to know these impressive animals are among the last of their kind, just because some people believe their horn, which is just keratin like our fingernails, has healing properties.
It would be a tragedy if we lost them.