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Photographing The Last Two Northern White Rhinos Left On Earth


Justin Mott

Two white rhinos with sun setting behind them
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In 2018, Sudan, the last remaining male northern white rhino passed away of natural causes at the Ol Pejeta conservancy in Laikipia County, Kenya thus dooming the existence of their subspecies.

Tombstone reading "Sudan, the last male northern white rhino 1973-2018"

Not far from Sudan’s grave lives Fatu and Najin (mother and daughter), the last known living northern white rhinos on the planet.

Two rhinos feeding
Ariel shot looking downwards on two rhinos with extended shadows

A loss of habitat and poaching of their valuable horns to be sold off in the black market for traditional eastern medicinal purposes bound for countries such as China, South Korea, and Vietnam has led to the demise of their species.

Two rhinos drinking from water trough
Closeup shot of rhino's eye

Fatu and Najin live in a large gated and protected area where they are free to roam and are monitored 24 hours a day by Ol Pejeta’s caretakers and armed NPR (National Police Reservists).  

Rhino grazing
Two caretakers in camouflage carrying guns at perimeter fence

The caretakers feed and look after them along with educating visitors about their plight.  The NPR patrols the 360 square kilometer conservancy around the clock looking for signs of poachers. They patrol the bush throughout the night amongst wild and sometimes dangerous animals.

Silhouettes of three caretakers at dawn carrying guns

In 2018, they had an encounter with three poachers and a gun fight ensued, resulting in the death of all 3 poachers.

Six caretakers solemnly looking down towards the ground

The protectors and caretakers all live in small bush camp within eyesight of Fatu and Najin. They live away from their families where they work 20 days on and 6 days off at the conservancy. They take tremendous pride and honor in their work and these heroes sacrifice so much for these animals, this is their story.  

Caretaker stroking rhino's head while it's lying down
Caretaker touching rhino's horn while it's lying down
Two rhinos lying down wit a caretaker sitting and resting with his back on one of them
Silhouette of caretaker feeding a rhino
Rhino grazing on grass in background with caretaker's gun in foreground while he looks over her
Caretaker patting a rhino's head
Close up of caretaker's hand touching a rhino
Caretaker standing next to a rhino while the sun sets in the distance
Caretaker crouching while feeding a rhino some grass

If you’d like to donate to Ol Pejeta and help support their amazing efforts for animal conservation please click here.

This is part of a larger ongoing personal project titled Kindred Guardians, highlighting people around the world doing extraordinary deeds for animal welfare and animal conservation.

About the author:

Justin Mott is an award-winning editorial, travel, and commercial photographer and director based in Vietnam for over a decade. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. Mott has shot over 100 assignments throughout Vietnam and Southeast Asia for the New York Times covering tragedy, travel, features, business, and historical moments. You can find more of his work on his website, YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram. This article was also published here.

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