Keeping up with 133 black rhinos

Monitoring the rhinos on Ol Pejeta is an important part of their conservation. With black rhinos listed as ‘critically endangered’ by IUCN, and the threat of poaching so consistently high, our wildlife team have a rigorous sighting policy - every rhino on the Conservancy must be spotted at least once every three days. If not, a targeted search is called to find them. Our rhino monitoring patrols carry out their work primarily on foot, and sometimes in a 4x4. Either way, recognising shy and fast-moving rhinos in the bush can be tricky. 

That is why for many years Ol Pejeta has had a policy of ear-notching rhinos; marking every animal with a unique cut pattern in their ears to make for easy and quick identification. 

In October, Ol Pejeta, in collaboration with the Kenya Wildlife Service, carried out the 2019 ear notching exercise - successfully notching 21 rhinos over the period of a week, with funding and generous support from Rhino Impact Investment (RII), US Fish and Wildlife Service and Fondation Ensemble

12 males and 9 females between the ages of two and eight years old were given unique ear patterns, in a process that involves the animal having to be immobilised with a tranquiliser from a helicopter. To minimise time under sedation, teams work as quickly as possible, and the animal is given an antidote to enable it to regain consciousness as soon as the ear notching is finished. 

After notching, each pattern is recorded in our rhino identification database, along with many other details about the individual animal. 

The costly and resource-intensive operation happens every two years.