Dr. Maureen Kamau is based in Laikipia, Kenya at the Mpala Research Centre. As a veterinary research fellow for the Smithsonian’s Global Health Program, Dr. Kamau works to heal and save wild animals, conduct research and perform outreach.
With Conservation Nation support, Dr. Kamau has been part of a team helping eastern black rhinos. She also participated in a Conservation Nation-funded conference in Kenya focusing on rhino care.
Q. When did you first know you wanted to save animals in the wild?
Becoming a wildlife veterinarian and researcher was one of those wildest dreams that you don’t think possible because opportunities are extremely rare. I consider myself lucky and honored to have the opportunity to work with wildlife in situ [in the field]. It is inspiring to see their fully assured forward progress in their natural habitat, which grips me with an earnest sense of responsibility to work towards their conservation.
It has been a dream come true to tangibly have an impact on individual wildlife species through clinical interventions and wildlife populations through research.
Q. What makes studying rhinos especially important to you?
Eastern black rhinos are a Kenyan heritage. They are native to the region and an umbrella species whose conservation has a trickle-down effect on the conservation of other species and habitats. Despite the sudden decline in their population numbers in the 1980s due to poaching to just 400 individuals, eastern black rhino populations are now gradually increasing with 726 individuals as of the end of 2017. With monitoring, appropriate security measures in place, law enforcement, collaboration with relevant stakeholders, and public support, poaching levels now stand at less than 1% annually in Kenya.
Q. What is the hardest thing about working with rhinos?
Eastern black rhinos are very shy animals, preferring bushy areas where they are not easily visible. They are also very aggressive when threatened and very compassionate to each other and their young.
The rangers have an unwavering grit to track these individuals, mostly on foot, on a daily basis, which inspires me.
Conservation Nation thanks Dr. Kamau and her fellow researchers for their dedication to saving animals! Stay tuned for more updates about conservation work in Kenya.