- Your Voice
- Your Leaders
- In the Media
- Online Shop
Author: Brooke Squires
It goes without saying that after 20 years of looking after rhino at Werribee Zoo, one of the big things that drew me to working in Kenya was the wildlife, yep.... especially those crazy rhinoceros. Now, I love my big, lumbering, 3.5 tons of rhino at the zoo, but nothing can really compare with the hard core 'I really know how to use my horn' type of rhino that roam Lewa and Il Ngwesi Conservancies in Kenya.
And it is not only the rhino that are so incredible in this part of east Africa. Melako and Lewa are also home to the endangered Beisa Oryx and Grevy’s zebra, as well as huge herds of elephant, giraffe, and cheeky monkeys. And for the big cat lovers out there, I have never been to Lewa without seeing a lion!
Lewa is a pretty stunning Conservancy. It was originally a cattle ranch until an inspiring lady, by the name of Anna Merz, convinced the Craigs (the owners) to turn Lewa into a rhino Sanctuary. Gradually other wildlife was reintroduced and over time the Sanctuary became a Conservancy and joined with the neighbouring community of Il Ngwesi. It is because of Anna and our shared passion for rhino that I first came to Kenya.
Lewa is extraordinary. Just imagine waking each morning to the sound of Crested Cranes flying overhead, or to the call of the zebra stallion as he gathers his herd together, and the unforgettable roar of lion in the swamp not more than 200 metres from your room.
But for me the heart and soul of Kenya will always be the rhino. Lewa has a female Black rhino that is blind and therefore cannot rear her calves, so the Lewa scouts hand-rear these gorgeous rhinos until they can be released onto the Conservancy. Considering that the calves weigh about 40kgs when they are born, it doesn’t take long to develop a healthy respect for these little guys, especially when they take out your kneecaps! Elvis is a 2-year-old Black rhino that was hand-raised on Lewa; he hangs around the camp and offices and admin areas. Often when I go for a wander in the early hours of the morning, cup of hot tea in hand, Elvis is already about. I think he enjoys sharing the beautiful sunrises with someone. At any rate, he is great company and it adds that little bit of magic to my day.
In Kenya every rhino is precious, and with rhino horn worth more than gold on the black market, it is easy to see why. Poaching is a very real threat. Lewa is a big Conservancy with more than 150 scouts employed to protect wildlife around the clock, especially the rhino, and with the incidence of poaching increasing across Africa, Lewa, Melako and Il Ngwesi, scouts are highly trained and take their jobs very seriously. John Pameri (at left) is local Maasai and in charge of the Conservancy scouts and all wildlife management and security services on Lewa. John is so full of fun and laughter that I always find it hard to believe his job is to protect wildlife from poachers...No Matter What. Spending even a small amount of time in John’s company is incredible; this is a man with his finger on the wildlife pulse of Kenya. John is more than happy to have a coffee with us, chatting about wildlife management on Lewa, the challenges and successes, sharing unique stories and insights from his extraordinary job. This is a fantastic opportunity that the average visitor to Lewa does not experience. John may even take us on a walk with one of his scouts.
And let me tell you about the Beagles. Beagles? Oh yes, Beagles. As in the dog variety. Lewa’s Beagles form an integral part of the anti-poaching unit that protects the wildlife of the Conservancy. Nothing can sniff out a poacher quite like a Beagle. They are the kings of tracking. Lewa’s Beagles are used across Lewa, Ol Pejeta and other surrounding Conservancies when there is even the whiff of a poacher. I am eternally grateful that dedicated men like John and his Beagles are keeping an eye on rhino, so future generations will still be able to see these beasties roaming free across the African plains.
Running an anti-poaching dog unit is an expensive exercise, but so necessary. Supporting a Beagle to protect a rhino is pretty easy. All it costs is $30 a month. You can do this through RAW Africa Eco Tours “Want to do a little bit more” program, or even better, why don’t you come and meet Lewa’s anti-poaching dog unit and John, when you come on this trip of a lifetime. Come and visit the African Tour page.
Brooke Squires has worked in zoos, national parks and conservation areas around the world. These days, she divides her time between her beloved rhinos at Werribee Open Range Zoo, Victoria, where she is a rhino keeper, and the International Conservation Partnerships for Zoos Victoria.
Ph: +61 (0) 423 393 836