They are mother and daughter and the last white rhinos in the north. Najin and Fatu live in one of the largest rhino sanctuaries in the world, Ol Pejeta Conservancy, in Kenya, where they are cared for by Zacharia, their devoted keeper, and lovingly known to all as “the girls”.
Sudan’s daughter and granddaughter, the last male northern white rhinoceros to die in 2018, a wildlife superstar for the worst of reasons, were born and raised in the Czech Republic in a fully controlled environment, surrounded by people with no idea what it means to live in their natural habitat. They are therefore particularly sweet and sociable, says journalist Sam Anderson, who, accompanied by the author of these pictures, Jack Davidson, went to Kenya in January 2021 at the request of the New York Times with the aim of getting to know him. they.
The “girls”, now 32 and 19 years old, arrived at the sanctuary in 2009. At that time, they were afraid of everything. They were frightened by the movements of other animals, frightened by the slightest noise. Today, already acclimatized, they live in a kind of supervised animal world. Your mornings start with a thorough brushing. Najin, the oldest and cutest, is particularly fond of this kind of awakening – she positions her bulky body to make it easier for the companion to access all corners. After that, both are released to the park area, where they spend the day doing what a rhinoceros does: rolling in the mud, sharpening their horns, rubbing their bodies against logs, and eating, eating, and eating large amounts of grass. They are very relaxed and rarely attack people or other animals. A white rhinoceros can kill, but will prefer not to kill whenever possible.
The “girls” are famous in the region on the safari racetrack – not like they used to be in Sudan – but they are protected from poaching by the park’s fences and constant surveillance. The connection between Najin and Fatu is special, after all they are mother and daughter and their only species companions, something rare, but more and more common in the 21st century due to human actions. Ironically, the same species that destroys species uses science to conserve them.
Efforts have been made in Ol Pejeta to reproduce and save northern white rhinos. The “girls” are patiently waiting for new companions resulting from the in vitro fertilization of the Sudanese genetic material that the sanctuary staff collected before his death, Najin’s eggs and a rhinoceros replacement belly. South white. However, the Covid-19 pandemic has delayed this endeavor.
Jack Davidon’s photographs show the delicate bond that exists between Najin and Fatu in isolation and what they maintain with their keeper Zacharia. A portion of the sale of the book, Ol Pejeta, published by Loose Joints Publishing, will go towards the conservation of this species.