Dinners are commonplace to celebrate special occasions: a new job, a marriage proposal, or perhaps a graduation. But in this instance, at Ol Jogi Conservancy in Laikipia, Kenya, the recently introduced ‘Rhino Dinners’ are occasions for its ranger teams to be the celebratory focus. They provide an opportunity for rangers to get together, socialise over a drink and a meal, discuss their work, and – if a new calf has been born – propose a name for the newest addition to the herd. These dinners not only help to boost motivation and team morale, but also bolster a sense of pride and ownership for the vital work rangers do each day. And their efforts are essential.
Covering all potential access points across the Conservancy and responding to security incidents within neighbouring communities, the team is already logistically stretched. With poaching syndicates ever eager to offer large sums of money in exchange for information about the rhinos’ whereabouts and team security protocols, building a trusted and well-supported ranger unit is critical. Unfortunately, since the poaching crisis began, a number of rhino poaching incidents (in Kenya and beyond) have taken place with insider information being leaked to criminal networks. Ensuring rangers are valued, remain safe and well cared for, and are motivated, is important for the conservation of the very animals they are employed to protect.
The aim of the Rhino Dinners is to provide a fun occasion and show appreciation for rangers’ daily sacrifices and hard work protecting the Conservancy’s resident rhinos. And such appreciation is well justified. Ol Jogi’s monitoring rangers have been responsible for a more than 90% detection rate of poaching intrusions, thanks to their exceptional tracking skills and the strategic stationing of their teams. As a result of their efforts, no rhinos have been poached on the Conservancy since 2015; long may this continue.
To provide an area to host dinners, and thanks to your support and fundraising, the ForRangers initiative provided US $20,000. In May 2023 the canteen opened up and is now a venue for gatherings, briefings, training sessions and a place to relax when people are off duty. An area of it has also been dedicated for team training courses, where rangers can meet for presentations and workshops using a newly-installed white board and a large TV screen. In addition, recent grants from ForRangers have also provided GPS devices, ranger uniforms, 10 instructed CrossFit training sessions and binoculars for patrols.
Sampeke Meshami, Head of Rhino Monitoring, commented on the impacts that the Rhino Dinners and new canteen have had:
“The Rhino Dinners have been a good thing for me and my team members. All the members get a chance to discuss the problems we are having and show appreciation for each other. We have enjoyed making use of the canteen [and] it is a place that we are proud of.”
For security reasons, the Conservancy cannot leave rangers’ stations unmanned, so half of the rangers attend the Dinners, whilst others remain on duty. The team then distributes food and drinks to those unable to attend, and everyone swaps for the next occasion, to make sure that everyone has a chance to celebrate.
With feedback from rangers about the Dinners, the Conservancy has also invited spouses and children to some events, offering the opportunity to get to know each other’s families. This has been very well received and the rangers have requested that this continues from time-to-time in the future.
The dedication of Ol Jogi’s rangers is shown not only through their ongoing commitment each day, but by the continued growth of the Conservancy’s black and white rhinos, as well as other important species. The recent funding is improving rangers’ daily lives, helping to make what is a very difficult and dangerous job that little bit better. This is only possible thanks to the generosity of many of you, who fundraise for and donate towards ForRangers and Save the Rhino. With your contributions, we can continue to make a difference for the rangers protecting a vital population of Eastern black rhinos. Thank you.