The Rhino Memorial in Laikipia, Kenya serves as a harsh reminder of the devastating effects of wildlife poaching. Situated inside the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, the graveyard now has 16 tombstones, each in memory of a poached rhino.

A lucrative black market means that the illegal trade is rife in Africa, and it has negative consequences not just to animals, but to local communities and the environment as well.

The desperate need to draw attention to endangered rhinos by creating a recognised place of burial becomes even more understandable when you learn that the conservancy homes the last three northern white rhinos in the world. And the 113 black rhinos residing there are a species now considered 'critically endangered'. It's a tragic situation.

"Poaching is caused by human greed and has escalated in recent years," spokeswoman for Ol Pejeta Conservancy, Elodie Sampere, tells LADbible.

Credit: Ol Pejeta Conservancy
Credit: Ol Pejeta Conservancy

"It's mainly being driven by the demand for rhino horn in Asian countries. But if we stop the demand, we stop the poaching. It's really as simple as that."

On the tombstones, rhinos have their own epitaphs, detailing how they were slain. It's by reading them that you can learn that one of the buried, a 20-month pregnant rhino named Ishrini, suffered agonising pain as she killed by poachers. She was slayed by poisonous arrows and then had her horns cut off, presumably for profit.

"We feel it's very important for people to understand how rhinos are dying. We think that by writing how they died, it will add a bit of 'shock value', and will help people understand that we are in a crisis when it comes to rhinos," says Sampere.

Today, the chilling setting is a warning of the impact of poaching, but it was initially founded because of a rhino called Morani, who was one of the first black rhinos to be brought to the conservancy.

Ol Pejeta Conservancy
Ol Pejeta Conservancy

"For 19 years, Morani was a fantastic draw for Ol Pejeta visitors," Sampere tells us. "His good nature and willingness allowed them to get a hands-on experience and an insight into the day-to-day life of a black rhino. During visits, the young and old were educated about the plight of black rhinos in Africa, and what must be done to ensure their survival."

When Morani died of old age, he became an ambassador for the non-profit conservancy, and so was buried with his own tombstone. This brought about the rhino memorial, which has been ongoing for 10 years.

Ol Pejeta Conservancy
Ol Pejeta Conservancy

However, not all of the deceased rhinos are able to be brought to the area of burial, as the place where they died was too far to drag their heavy bodies. Even still, a tombstone is formed in their honour and planted at the graveyard in order to remember them and in the hope of bringing more awareness to the issue.

"Creating awareness is the most important thing we can do," Sampere says. "Populations that 'consume' rhino horn need to be educated. Governments need to be made aware of the crisis and put laws in place to stop the poaching."

If you wish to help the Ol Pejeta rhino programme, you can donate here. http://www.olpejetaconservancy.org/support-us/

Credit: Jacque Talbot

Featured Image Credit: Ol Pejeta Conservancy

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