In today’s episode, we’re heading to Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya – a place I’ve always wanted to visit – to speak with James Mwenda – who is recipient of the 2018 African Ranger of the Year Award, an international speaker, conservationist and caretaker to the last two northern white rhinos in the ENTIRE world. He’s also giving David Attenborough a run for his money as he’s been popping up on several BBC programs and plays the role of both subject and narrator for the upcoming film KIFARU.
“What would you tell the world if you were given a platform to stand?”James Mwenda
If you’re not sweating after the first 15 mins of this interview, you’ve got the nerves of steel! In this episode of Naturally Curious, you’ll hear:
Why Ol Pejeta Conservancy is such a special place, what life looks like for a ranger and some of the dangers they face, secrets to survive a lion when you are in the bush, watching extinction in real time, converting the negative into the positive, how faith, openness and experience have helped James become the person he is today, that the girls he cares for are the last of their kind and warnings for us all about the impending extinction and how we can all do something to make the world a little bit better.
How does a 3 ton animal go extinct in front of our eyes?
They’re prehistoric looking for a reason – they’ve been around for 300 million years and have outlasted numerous ice ages. They have no natural predators. I mean, have you seen one? They look like armoured vehicles and sad but true – their decline is only due to human activity like urban sprawl, farming, illegal hunting and climate change changing the foods they eat and the habitats themselves. They also have to contend with the major threat of poachers.
Rangers often form the first and last line of defence for nature and as the global shutdown continues and tourism collapses for many of the reserve areas, poaching fears rise. Rhino are poached for their horns which are composed of the same keratin that makes up human fingernails to which there is no medical benefit. Ask science. But let’s not forget, the illegal wildlife trade is a huge market – it’s up there with human trafficking, drug trafficking and worth an estimated 23-24 billion dollars.
There are 5 species of rhino that live on this planet today. 2 are located in Africa, and the other 3 in Asia. According to WWF, both the Sumatran and Javan species have under 80 individuals left. No matter where they are, all species of rhino are in decline so conservation efforts are now more critical than ever. Have a look at www.helpingrhinos.org and www.olpejetaconservancy.org for more ways you can help support them. You can also find James on Instagram, Youtube and Facebook.
I’m happy to answer questions on social media. Reach out @natcurio or @brittanygawley on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook and don’t miss the next episode as I talk with Michelle Valberg, Canadian Nikon Ambassador and Canadian Geographic Photographer in Residence about all things storytelling, community and adventure. OH! And what it’s like to swim with narwhal.
Until then, stay curious my friends!