General, Hot off the Press

Laura Jones walks with rangers

By | Friday, 31st December, 2021

Kenya-Lengishu-House-Pool

The ranger in front of me is carrying a gun.

I am glad of this. He is employed by Borana Ranch but armed by the government. The fight against poaching is ongoing and brutal. There are two unarmed rangers behind us. The sun is just coming up and curling fronds of pink and orange decorate the sky. There a coolness to the air which will disappear soon, giving way to the relentless heat of the day. We walk on through the long grass in silence, looking for rhino.

Every so often we pause to scan the horizon and undulating landscape which stretches around us, punctuated by valleys and rocky outcrops. The sun moves higher turning the heavens a brilliant blue. In the distance the snowy peak of Mount Kenya rises out of the layered grey hills. On some days it is hard to see the peak through the clouds but today it is crystal clear like a back lit image on a familiar screen.

One of the rangers points towards a far hillside. ‘black rhino, he is called “namunyak’ he whispers. I can only see vegetation stretching off for miles. ‘There,’ he repeats jabbing his finger at the vast array of bushes, trees and rocks. I scan fruitlessly around with my binoculars. Nothing. He is laughing now, amused by my pathetic ability to make out the patently obvious.

After some time Will locates the rhino and tries to help me; ‘You see that green bush’ he starts but stops as I give him a withering look. There are about a million green bushes in the direction they are all pointing.

Eventually I find it, a far off figure that I can just make out through my binoculars.

‘How can you tell if it is a black or white rhino?’

“The mouth is a different shape.’ The ranger at the back replies.

Their eyesight is nothing short of miraculous. As we move on through denser bush I am very glad I am with these gifted people, there are a lot of lion and elephant here.

In unison they all stop abruptly and drop their bodies closer the ground. The Ranger with the gun flicks his hand motioning us to fall in closer behind him. My heart pounds as I hurry through the thistles to get closer to him. There are some small yellow breasted birds chattering loudly above a bush a few meters in front of us. An alarm call.

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Slowly the lead ranger moves forward his head turning from side to side, his rifle lifted in both hands. We follow behind him for a few seconds before the mood abruptly changes and the imminent danger seems to have gone.

Suddenly we are 15 meters from three enormous, beautiful rhino. I point excitedly and they laugh again that I have only just spotted them.  We crouch down and watch this little family moving slowly tougher. The mother lies heavily on her side and her calf comes in to feed. The vast male stands nearby eating grass. I could have stayed for hours watching them. The night rangers sleep near them. They haven’t lost one since 2015, they tell me proudly.

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We eventually get back to Lengishu and breakfast is waiting. Lengishu is the beautiful house in which we are staying, It sits, perched high on a hill, overlooking for prolific wilderness of Borana conservancy. I watch the rangers head back out to carry on their work. I feel an enormous gratitude to them for the job they do and for sharing it with us, for that very incredible morning.

Laura and Will Jones travelled to Borana Conservancy in northern Kenya’s Laikipia with the Financial Times in December 2021, where they stayed at Lengishu. For more information on this or any other trip to Kenya and wider East Africa, please do get in touch. For more on Lengishu and Borana Conservancy, please see below.