Voices for Wildlife: A Dialogue With KT and Conservation Partners

While you know it’s important to protect wildlife, you may not realize how critical the situation is. As reported by Earth.org biologists and scientific studies have suggested that many of the world’s largest mammal species may become extinct by 2100. This means that future generations will only know the animals you’re familiar with—tigers, elephants, and lions—as extinct creatures, much like how we view dinosaurs and mammoths today.

The heartbreaking truth is that these animals are at risk of becoming erased from existence. And time is running out to save them.

In this Q&A journal post, we’re exploring the power of ONE. We’re considering what a world without these creatures may look like while sharing stories from KT and our conservation partners. These stories illustrate how a single experience, animal, species, or organization can create a ripple effect, resulting in a lasting impact.

One Moment Can Change Everything

Describe a memory with an animal that has had an impact on your life.

KT: When I was a teenager in Northern Nevada at a party, someone asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up. Without even thinking, I blurted out, ‘Photograph elephants in Africa!’ The statement practically made them spit out their drink in surprise as their eyes widened and they stared at me blankly. They were expecting something more conventional. Needless to say, my heart answered that question from that small Nevada town, and nearly a couple of decades later, I found myself realizing that dream. And, it was as magical as I imagined… 

Since 2017, with the support of our wonderful community, Render Loyalty has donated over $60,000 to support wildlife conservation efforts.

The Last of One Species

Najin and Fatu are the only Northern white rhinos on Earth. To ensure their survival, they’re under 24-hour security at Ol Pejeta Conservancy. Since both rhinos are female, in vitro fertilization efforts have been underway. As the last of a species, Najin and Fatu are powerful symbols. They not only represent the harm we’ve caused to this planet and the wildlife that inhabit it, but they’re also symbols of hope for a brighter future. 

Considering Najin and Fatu are the last two Northern white rhinos in existence, what would a world without this species look like? How would this affect Ol Pejeta Conservancy and the local ecosystem? 

KT: Sometimes I’m still astounded that we are watching, standing by, and accepting that ENTIRE species are being wiped from the planet, at the hands of humans. I find it so incomprehensible that it can be overwhelming to think about. The next generations won’t even have the opportunity to see, experience, or save these animals because they will simply be gone. 

I know that the animal beings that we share the planet with have made my human experience so deeply fulfilling, a world without these amazing wild animals will be a very sad one. 

Ol Pejeta: The loss of the Northern white rhino species would be huge and our team would be utterly devastated. A world without this species would symbolize our failure. Megafauna alive today are a fraction of the diversity that inhabited the earth even 100 years ago. With rhinos, it is a horrific reflection on us as a species that we have hunted them to near extinction out of greed. The world would be a darker place.

For the local ecosystem, the  Northern white rhino is a keystone species. They have a critical role within the ecosystem and their presence has a tangible effect on other organisms within their habitat. Many other species depend on rhinos, without which their ecosystem can drastically change.

Rhinos are herbivores who graze and keep grass height to a suitable habitat for other species. They help increase the biodiversity of grasses, potentially lowering the risk of wildfire, which is important given climate change and the increasing drought threat in the region. Their absence could mean less food for other grazers such as impala and zebra. They’re often described as ecological architects due to their grazing and other activities such as creating natural waterholes from wallowing in mud.

They help spread nutrients supporting the basis of complex food chains. Each day they eat up to 50kg of food and deposit 20kg of dung, which helps fertilize and create nutrient-rich soil. They’re also an important host to other organisms such as birds, ticks, and bugs.

Recent breakthroughs from the Biorescue Project, have instilled a renewed sense of hope for the critically endangered Northern white rhino. Despite recent setbacks, the dedication of rangers and veterinarians, coupled with cutting-edge technology, propels us toward the prospect of welcoming a new life.

Shop our Ol Pejeta Series to support Biorescue efforts for Northern white rhinos.

One Animal Can Have a Lasting Impact

The Sheldrick Wildlife Trust is renowned for its Orphans’ Project. The Sheldrick team rescues orphaned elephants, rhinos, giraffes, and other wildlife, and raises them with expert care. After a rehabilitation process that can take many years, the elephants are then reintegrated into protected wilderness. 

One special elephant in Sheldrick's program is Yatta. Yatta was rescued as an orphan in 1999 and became one of the four female elephants who served as the Ithumba Reintegration Unit’s founding herd in 2004. At the Ithumba Unit, orphaned elephants interact with wild herds while under the care of the Sheldrick team. During this time they grow, learn, and gain important skills so that when they’re ready, they can be re-wilded.

How did Yatta pave the way for the success of the Ithumba Unit today? What would the Tsavo Park and Ithumba Unit look like without her?

Sheldrick Team: Yatta illustrates how one saved life can have an impact on generations. In 1999, she was found standing near the carcass of her mother, who had been slain by poachers and robbed of her ivory. Although she was just weeks old when she was orphaned, Yatta showed great aptitude as a leader from an early age.

In 2004, when we were selecting the founding herd for our new Ithumba Reintegration Unit, we knew that it needed to be anchored by a strong matriarch. Yatta was a natural choice — and sure enough, she led with confidence and decisiveness from the moment she stepped foot in Ithumba. Under her mentorship, many orphans have found their place back in the wilds of Tsavo.

Yatta still has lots of life ahead of her, but already, she has spawned two generations of elephants. She first became a mother in 2012, giving birth to a daughter named Yetu. In the following decade, she also brought two sons into the world: Yoyo, born in 2017, and Yogi, born in 2021. Last year, Yatta became a grandmother when her firstborn, Yetu, gave birth to a baby of her own.

As a matriarch, a mentor, a mother, and a grandmother, Yatta has been a formative presence in so many lives. She has helped dozens of orphans reclaim their place in the wild, and directly given life to two generations of elephants. In the coming decades, Yatta’s family tree will continue to branch out, creating entire dynasties in the process. 

Shop our Sheldrick Wildlife Trust series to help orphaned elephants.

One Organization Can Save a Species

Founded in 1995, Lewa Wildlife Conservancy began with a mission to protect the Eastern black rhino population, which had decreased by a staggering 90%. The Conservancy is now home to 15% of Kenya’s rhino population, along with many other threatened species. 

How has Lewa’s unique conservation model contributed to the Conservancy’s success in growing the rhino population? What would a world without the Eastern black rhino look like?

Lewa Team: Run by Kenyans for Kenyans, Lewa Wildlife Conservancy provides a secure habitat for some of Africa’s most threatened species, such as the Eastern black rhino, through locally-led wildlife protection and community development programs. These programs form a core strategy for transforming lives in rural communities as Lewa strives to conserve the fragile ecosystem on which both wildlife and people depend. By ensuring that surrounding communities directly benefit from wildlife tourism, Lewa maintains high levels of trust and engagement with its neighbors.

As the first and leading private rhino sanctuary in East Africa, Lewa’s rhino population has grown from an initial 15 rhinos to 262 rhinos today. Lewa has also developed its conservation practice to where it is now protecting endangered species and translocating animals to repopulate new conservation areas. Our growing number of partners across Kenya and Africa is a key element to this success. Together, we share a common mandate to help the rhino rise out of near extinction and push the boundaries of what is possible in conservation. The collaboration between Lewa and neighboring Borana Conservancy to merge two separate land areas created 93,000 acres of contiguous rhino rangeland.

A world without black rhinos would be lacking one of Kenya's most iconic species which has existed for millions of years. Beyond their inherent value, black rhinos play an important role in their ecosystem. Black rhinos are browsers, meaning most of their sustenance comes from eating trees and bushes, which encourages new growth of the vegetation and in turn provides additional food and grazing areas for other herbivores. As a charismatic species, rhinos also create a draw for tourism, bringing economic growth to the local communities. Without black rhinos, the landscape would be a vastly different, emptier place. Even with marked progress, the black rhino remains critically endangered and the long-term survival of this magnificent species rests on long-term solutions that secure habitat, reduce demand for rhino horn, and involve local communities.

Shop our Lewa Wildlife Conservancy series to support their conservation initiatives.

As One Person, You Can Make A Difference

The urgency to protect threatened species cannot be overstated. With the alarming decline of wildlife populations globally, the need for action is more important than ever. 

As a single person, don’t underestimate your impact. Just as one experience, animal, or organization can catalyze a ripple effect, you too can make a difference for threatened wildlife. From the last two Northern white rhinos, Najin and Fatu, to the remarkable elephant Yatta, and the transformative efforts of the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, each story underscores the importance of collective action in safeguarding our planet's biodiversity. 

Through awareness, support, and engagement, we all play a vital role in preserving our natural world for generations to come. 

Shop our collections to make a difference for threatened wildlife.

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