Keeping an eye on every rhino - the story of Mikayla

At Ol Pejeta we have a rhino sighting policy. Each one of our 170 rhinos must be sighted by a ranger at least once every four days, or we start to get worried. 

With 90,000-acres to cover, this is no easy task! But this is where our Rhino Patrol Unit comes in. Able to identify most Ol Pejeta rhinos from a two-second glimpse of her ear (we ‘notch’ their ears to make for easy ID) before she darts into the bush, the Ol Pejeta Rhino Patrol Unit are really good at what they do. 

Last month, the Unit raised alarm bells when three-year-old female rhino Mikayla had not been seen in over a week. Newly independent from her mother, Mikayla has been found in various locations in the conservancy over the last six months enjoying her new freedom. However, when the patrol unit noticed that she had not been seen for a while, they put the rangers on the ground on high alert to actively look for her. Normally at this stage, the rhino is found and all is well, but in this case, she seemed to have just vanished. Deliberate search efforts, which included an aerial search by plane, were then instituted as joint operations between the rhino patrol unit and the armed ranger team.

Peter Ekatrot, a foot patrol ranger, had been out all morning searching hoping to see Mikayla but had not succeeded. The search continued into the afternoon and at around 4:00 pm, he saw what looked like a rhino footprint that he thought was worth investigating.He walked deeper into the bushes and saw a group of hippos, and next to them was a female black rhino. He excitedly called the radio room and asked his supervisor to go to the location to confirm the identity of the rhino and sure enough, it was Mikayla. 

It was sighs of relief all around. Mikayla was safe and well. She had temporarily settled in the thick bushes of our newly created habitat restoration zone. This is a  zone fenced using a short fence and that is meant to allow for dying vegetation to grow back without disturbance. It seems during her explorations she had found the perfect thickets to settle in. Staying isolated in thick bushes is a common trait in black rhinos and is a survival tactic they use for protection from potential predators and dominant male rhinos. It is great to see that young Mikayla learnt well from her mother and that she is using her natural instincts to thrive in the vast conservancy.