Kids Meet Baraka the Blind Black Rhino
What do you do when you meet a black rhino face-to-face? You feed him a special rhino treat…alfalfa grass! It was so awesome watching the Kids Meet Baraka the Blind Black Rhino at Ol Pejeta Conservancy. The kids could not stop talking about Baraka that day, and a couple weeks later it continues to be a hot topic of conversation! You would think, after surviving the Great Chimpanzee Escape, that would be all they could talk about. But no, it was Baraka, Baraka, Baraka! So, what is Baraka’s Story? Baraka was born wild and free in Ol Pejeta. Around 14 years of age he battled with another male rhino and lost his right eye. His left eye has severe cataract leaving him mostly blind. The conservancy moved Baraka into a 100-acre enclosure at the Morani Information Center for his own protection to live out his days. With a gentle disposition, Baraka has taken on the role of rhino ambassador at the center.
Visitors to Ol Pejeta Conservancy can meet Baraka and feed him while learning more about him from his caretakers at Morani Center. They will also be educated on the plight of all rhino and conservation efforts to protect them. Since we were staying at the fantastic Sweetwaters Serena Camp set right within the conservancy, we were able to visit him, and the girls had the opportunity to feed him and learn about why it is important to protect the black rhino and all animals that are under threat from poaching. What an experience for us and the girls!
Check out this video when the girls Meet Baraka the Blind Black Rhino!
Baraka was not the first rhino ambassador at Ol Pejeta Conservancy. His famous predecessor, Morani was a tame, black rhino who lived at the conservancy for over 19 years. He was rescued from Amboseli National Park after his mother was killed by poachers. From that time he was taken care of by the conservancy, and protected with armed guards from poachers. He was a beloved icon and became an ambassador to the plight of the black rhino. My aunt and I had the privilege of meeting Morani back in 1995, on my first visit to Kenya. We were able to feed him, touch him, and observe him with his armed guards. I remember being shocked at how massive these animals are when standing next to them, and yet so vulnerable. Morani passed away of a natural death in 2008, but his legacy lives on at the Morani Center thru Baraka, and the continued work the conservancy is doing for the rhino.
We visited the Rhino Cemetery where a memorial has been erected for Morani, along with the grave sites for all rhinos who lost their lives by the hands of poachers at Ol Pejeta. The cemetery was opened just last year, on World Rhino Day, September 22, 2014. The graves were somber and beautiful, and a stark reminder there is still work to be done. As World Rhino Day approaches this year consider supporting the conservancy and their efforts to save the rhino here.
Morani Information Center
After meeting and feeding Baraka, his caretaker took us to the Morani Information Center. He talked to us and the girls about conservation, and had a bit of fun with some hands on education. Please DO TOUCH was labeled on almost everything. The kids were able to see real animal skulls and bones and pelts and hair, as well as the scary and inhumane traps used by poachers. The kids asked a ton of questions (big kids too), touched pretty much every item on display, had heaps of fun, and they learned stuff too! It was an exceptional educational experience for all of us!
The Black Rhino
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has the black rhino listed as critically endangered. Poaching is the culprit, with a 97.6% decline in population from 1960 to the 1990’s. Let me say that again, 97.6% decline in population due to poaching. Only 2300 wild black rhino were estimated to be living in the 90’s. Thru conservation efforts, the number has risen to around 5,000 today, and the hope is to see that number continue to rise. Ol Pejeta Conservancy has over 100 roaming free, and is the largest sanctuary in East Africa for the black rhino. Black Rhino Fun Facts: An average adult male black rhino can weigh close to 3000 pounds (1350 kg). There is no color difference between a black rhino and a white rhino. The black rhino is typically smaller than the white rhino, with the most noticeable difference being the shape of the mouth. Black rhinos have a hooked lip for browsing shrubs and thick bushes, and the white rhino has a wide lip or mouth. And in my humble opinion, they are pretty darn cute.
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