Saving the Wild partners with Ol Pejeta

Header image: Goodbye Sudan, the World’s Last Male Northern White Rhino, who died on March 19, 2018. Photo © Ami Vitale.  

A few weeks ago I published a story, Photographers of Impact: Ami Vitale, inspired by the New Big 5 project Saving the Wild is collaborating on. I wrote of the incredible impact her ‘Goodbye Sudan’ photograph had on the world in March 2018, where she captured with such sensitivity the last breaths of Sudan’s life as he rested his ancient head against Joseph Wachira, a caretaker at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya. 

Ol Pejeta’s reputation as an excellent non profit wildlife conservancy and tourist destination has stood firm for many years. A trailblazer for conservation innovation, Ol Pejeta is also the largest black rhino sanctuary in East Africa, a monumental responsibility in the race against extinction. The conservancy celebrated zero rhino poaching in 2018 and 2019, and last year 17 black rhinos were born, a remarkable success for the critically endangered species.

But then with covid-19 pandemic bringing tourism to its knees, I was inspired by how much effort Ami Vitale, living on the other side of the world, was putting in to raise urgent funds to support Ol Pejeta through these tumultuous times. Through her social media stories, competitions and live streams it was clear that she had developed deep bonds with the people who are guardians of this great wild place. She had absolute trust in them to protect the animals who call Ol Pejeta home.

© Ami Vitale

When a charity donates to another organization, we are not donating to animals, we are donating to people – people who we believe have the passion, determination and resilience to go all the way, because defending nature is hard at the best of times. And that is why Saving the Wild has just made our first US$10 000 donation to Ol Pejeta for the protection of their rhinos, because we believe they’re going to go all the way. And we’re going to do everything we can to support them through storytelling and advocacy. Ami Vitale made a direct impact on me, and I hope I can pay it forward, inspiring many others to donate whatever they can. 

There is nothing that could ever keep me away from the wild, it is my oxygen, and I will be visiting Ol Pejeta very soon, once again writing stories from the frontline. Even with tourism starting to come back at a glacial pace, Ol Pejeta stands to lose millions of dollars in income before the world settles into the new normal. But not if we all chip in. So that’s our plan, to keep chipping away at the deficit and inspire others to do the same. 

We will protect what we love and what we understand. And I understand that to save the rhino, we need Ol Pejeta.

© Ami Vitale

“In a world of 7 billion, we need to start recognizing that we are not separate from nature. When we see ourselves as part of nature, then saving nature is really about saving ourselves.”
-Ami Vitale | Follow Ami on Instagram