Ian Lemaiyan’s passion for wildlife and conservation is undisputed. Referred to as the ‘The Mother of all Rhinos’ by Save the Rhino, we caught up with him to talk about the Lewa Conservancy, Lewa Marathon and all things conservation. This is in preparation for the Lewa Marathon happening on June 24th.
- Tell us more about yourself.
My name is Ian Lemaiyan, I’m a rhino scientist and pilot who is passionately in love with wildlife.
- What inspired you to join the conservation world?
I owe this interest to my late mother. When I was a young boy growing up in Oloosurutia, mum would take her time to take me to the orphanage. When I was old enough to go to school, all I wanted to do was to fly and take care of wildlife. These two seemed so different as I had no idea that aviation could be a fundamental tool for conservation. LIfe became much clearer after joining KWS on a volunteer program which I saw it through for a year and a half. There, my calling became more specific. KWS planned to notch a number of black rhinos in 2013 in Nairobi National Park and I had the opportunity to take part in that. After a long thought on how or why are we focusing on these specific individuals? Reading notes in the archives and library I got to find out that these are the last species of their kind after years of slaughter through poaching and an insatiable market so far from Kenya of rhino horn and elephant ivory.
In the next few months, I was learning about rhinos, understanding them and often spending time with them in the park and of course with Dubai an 18 year old white rhino at the safari walk. “Why would someone want to kill these gentle, quiet and amazing animals?” It was a shocking revelation that I couldn’t understand, but from then I knew what I particularly wanted to do in conservation. How it was to happen,only God knew how it would all unfold. A few months later, Lewa Conservancy happened, and that was the start of real rhino work.
- What has been your experience since you joined the Lewa Conservancy?
Lewa Wildlife Conservancy has been a life changing place. When I walked in the office on the first day, there were so many friendly faces, welcoming people and most importantly, it was a home to 62 black rhinos and 61 white rhinos then. I’d done my homework and Lewa; a catalyst for conservation was a conservation success that can only be expressed by the feel of the atmosphere, the breathtaking views, and the magic that the earth exerts to each and every soul that walks, breathes and sees Lewa.
Early this year, I finally got my flying license and Lewa has been supportive to the extent of having a professional pilot convert me to a tailwheel aircraft known as the super cub. The super cub is the ultimate conservation tool which has been used by great conservationists like Ian Craig, the late David Sheldricks and to fly to protect rhinos, is a completely different feel and realm. There is still so much work to be done, but I am ready to go the extra mile to ensure that these species survive and have a place to call home.
Today, we stand at 88 black rhinos and 79 white rhinos with an extension rhino habitat to our neighboring conservancy, Borana. Being part of that growth has been a tremendous privilege and I’m forever grateful for that gift.
- What’s do you love most about your job?
My job has a purpose, it has a meaning, it is an honor to God and it’s the least I can do in memory of my mother and mother nature.
- Where do you see the conservation and tourism world in the next five years?
I see a more integrated experience in both conservation and tourism. Increasingly, travellers, both domestic and international, are seeking experiences that go beyond the typical game drive while on safari. They want to know that by visiting a destination, they are helping support the ecosystem and the wildlife there, which is what conservation aims to do. Here in Kenya, we are working hard to protect our wildlife, and in the next few years, through tourism, we should provide opportunities to demonstrate and share in these experiences with our guests from near and far.
- If you were to fly anyone across the Lewa Conservancy, who would it be and why?
I would fly children.They are the next generation of rangers and wildlife warriors. I would wish to show them the real meaning of conservation that they have a real vision of what to really fight for and make a difference.
Check out Ian’s Instagram page and Lewa Wildlife Conservancy on social media to get an inside view of life at Lewa.