July 28, 2014 2:08 PM EDT It is a last kindness. A man in camouflage takes out a knife and severs the horn of a rhinoceros, depriving the animal of its most iconic feature. The poachers who have killed this animal have fled, leaving behind their prize: the keratin that makes up the horn. It’s a substance so valued for its use in traditional Asian medicine that rhinos are being slaughtered by the thousands for it. Severing the horn will keep it off the black market. Even in death, the animal must be maimed to be saved.
That’s a measure of just how dire the present has become for the rhinos and elephants of Africa. After years of relative calm, trafficking in species like elephants and rhinos doubled from 2007 to 2013, largely to meet the growing demand for ivory and other animal products from the rising consumer class of Asia. By some estimates, wildlife trafficking is the fourth-largest international crime, carried out by global criminal syndicates for whom the trade is almost as lucrative as drugs but far safer. There’s even evidence that poaching now fuels terrorism—militant groups like Somalia’s al-Shabab derive a portion of their income from wildlife trafficking.
But in the face of loss, there are those who fight back. David Chancellor’s photographs document the work of the Northern Rangelands Trust, a Kenya-based NGO that has helped community conservancies learn to protect the wildlife they live alongside. Sometimes that means protecting people, as when an ornery elephant is relocated to reduce human-animal conflict. But often it’s a hard, dangerous battle against wildlife trafficking. As many as 1,000 park rangers have been killed in battles with poachers over the past decade. On the black market, slaughtering animals will always pay better than preserving them.
Yet Chancellor’s subjects soldier on, fighting to protect beings that cannot protect themselves.
is a South Africa-based English photographer who received a World Press Photo Award in 2010 for his work David Chancellor Hunters, which documented the southern African hunting industry. Bryan Walsh is a senior editor for TIME International & an environmental writer. Follow him on Twitter @bryanrwalsh. An elephant collaring team watches as an elephant recovers from a tranquilizing dart. The future of wildlife in northern Kenya will require support and engagement from local communities allowing the safe migration of wildlife along centuries-old routes, across tribal lands. Once fitted with a satellite tracking collar the elephant's progress can be monitored. David Chancellor—INSTITUTE A Kenya Wildlife service vet tranquillizes a problem elephant from a helicopter, Ol Pejeta Conservancy, Northern Kenya. The elephant was one of several that had taken to breaking fences and was coming into conflict with local farmers. David Chancellor—INSTITUTE Wildlife rangers prepare to relocate an elephant from the Ol Pejeta Conservancy to Meru National Park. Elephants discover quite quickly that their tusks do not conduct electricity, and that if they curl up their trunks they can quite happily break down electric fences that protect farms. David Chancellor —INSTITUTE A tranquillized elephant is secured to a truck by rangers prior to be being transferred from Ol Pejeta Conservancy, northern Kenya, to Meru National Park. After repeatedly breaking down electric fences, it became necessary to move this elephant to an area far away from human settlement. David Chancellor —INSTITUTE An elephant satellite tracking collar is prepared by rangers at the Sera Community Conservancy in northern Kenya. The collar will be fitted to a lone bull elephant, supplying scientists with a detailed plan of his migration. It will also be used to monitor his well being as he travels through areas rife with poaching. David Chancellor —INSTITUTE Wildlife rangers prepare to relocate a troublesome
elephant from the Ol Pejeta Conservancy to
Meru National Park in northern Kenya. David Chancellor —INSTITUTE A Samburu moran prepares to construct a boma out of thorn bushes in which his cattle will spend the night safe from predators.
The Samburu live in the northern highlands of Kenya; they are the country’s largest land occupiers and yet number few in a country of tens of millions. Fierce pastoralists, they saw no value in having wildlife on their lands because they believed it belonged to the government and was, therefore, of no benefit to them; cattle were allowed to graze everywhere, seriously degrading the grasslands. Under the stewardship of the Northern Rangelands Trust, the Samburu are learning to regenerate their lands and live alongside the wildlife. David Chancellor —INSTITUTE At dawn, Samburu Moran warriors take a camel to slaughter. David Chancellor —INSTITUTE Prior to attending Imuget le nkarna (a celebration of 10 years as a warrior) Samburu Moran apply red ochre to their bodies. The Samburu are know as the "butterfly people" by other warrior tribes because of the bright colours they dress in, and flamboyant body adornments. David Chancellor —INSTITUTE A samburu moran drinks the blood from the neck of a fresh slaughtered cow. A Samburu is a warrior for 13 years, during which time he lives completely in the bush with his cattle, drinking blood from the cows, milk, and occasionally water, and eating meat. David Chancellor —INSTITUTE Traditionally a moran carries little more than a spear, a knife and a plastic five-litre oil container, which is used as a container for water, milk, and as a pillow to keep his headdress off the ground while sleeping. Now with the huge influx of weapons from neighboring Somalia they will often carry an illegal G3 rifle or similar, with which they will protect their cattle from raiders, and raid other tribes for their cattle. David Chancellor —INSTITUTE Samburu moran take the meat that has been cut from slaughtered cows and hang it over a central tree. It will be cooked over open fires and placed on the ground under the same tree, from where it will be eaten by the warriors. This is one of the few occasions that the Moran will get to feast on meat during their time as warriors.
From this point on (10 years as warriors), they are permitted to take wives. The Samburu have an ancient connection to elephants: they require elephant dung to marry and consider them sacred. Any Samburu that kills an elephant brings a curse (called "alanna") upon his family. Despite this, and with the incredible amount of money being offered, some Moran are now becoming poachers on lands where elephants would previously have been protected by tradition alone. David Chancellor —INSTITUTE A leopard caught and killed in a poachers' snare is removed by conservancy rangers. David Chancellor —INSTITUTE A veterinarian treats a lioness for an eye infection, Lewa Conservancy, Northern Kenya.
The dual use of wildlife and livestock by communities in these remote areas of northern Kenya spreads the economic and financial risk, reduces vulnerability to droughts, and increases food security, it does however also increase the possibility of human-wildlife conflict which results in the necessity to also manage the wildlife itself. Wildlife can be used to generate the capital needed to help communities improve their welfare and bring peace, giving them a clear financial stake in preserving wildlife rather than killing it. David Chancellor —INSTITUTE Call sign 9.2, Isiolo County, northern Kenya.
‘9.2’ is a mobile multi-ethnic anti poaching unit who can respond quickly and effectively to any given situation, not just poaching, across all of the Northern Rangelands Community Conservancies, without fear of tribal conflict. They live in the bush for 26 days of each month, returning to base to rest and re-equip for the remaining four days of each month. David Chancellor —INSTITUTE A sedated black rhino is ear notched for identification purposes, Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, northern Kenya. David Chancellor —INSTITUTE A conservancy ranger removes the horn from a rhino that was killed by poachers who fled the scene on hearing the arrival of an airborne anti poaching team in the Lewa Conservancy, northern Kenya.
When poachers flee without removing rhino horn, or elephant ivory, conservancy rangers, or Kenya Wildlife service are called upon to remove it, once removed it will be taken into custody by Kenya Wildlife Service and stored at its Nairobi Headquarters. David Chancellor —INSTITUTE A black rhino is relocated from Lewa Conservancy to a neighbouring conservancy as part of an ongoing program to reintroduce Black Rhino across the northern rangelands of Kenya. David Chancellor —INSTITUTE It was hoped that several black rhino who were born blind would benefit from cataract surgery and be released back in to the wild. This operation was unsuccessful. David Chancellor —INSTITUTE A black rhino is lowered onto a surgeon's operating table at Ol Joggi Conservancy, northern Kenya. David Chancellor—INSTITUTE A black rhino calf orphaned by poachers is hand reared by a conservancy ranger. It’s hoped that it will be reintroduced into the wild once it is old enough to survive attacks from predators. David Chancellor —INSTITUTE Poaching increases significantly during periods of full moon, also referred to as the "hunters moon" at Mpus Kutuk Community Conservancy, northern Kenya. David Chancellor —INSTITUTE The body of a poacher killed in a shoot-out with conservancy rangers lies in the open bush at Lewa Conservancy, northern Kenya.
It was later discovered that the poacher was responsible for the death of a rhino and its one-month-old calf. He was carrying supplies and ammunition for several days of poaching within the conservancy. David Chancellor —INSTITUTE An elephant's foot, northern Kenya. Elephant's feet are used as waste paper bins and umbrella stands. David Chancellor —INSTITUTE The body of a farmer trampled to death by a rogue elephant at Naibunga Community Conservancy, northern Kenya, lies on a mortuary slab at the Nanyuki Mortuary.
The irony is that as grazing management programs become more successful farmers move into areas previously only inhabited by wildlife, which results in an increase in human wildlife conflict. Here a farmer walking home in the evening was chased by an elephant, gored and trampled to death. The community demanded retribution. The elephant was hunted down by Kenya Wildlife services, shot, and its tusks removed and placed in the same safe store in Nairobi as those from poachers. David Chancellor —INSTITUTE A poacher is interrogated by members of KWS and the community conservancy anti poaching unit ‘9.2’.
Part of a team intent on poaching, possibly the youngest and most inexperienced of the group, he was found by the teams blood hounds breathing through a reed, under the surface of a river. He will almost certainly spend a considerable amount of time in prison. The others escaped. David Chancellor —INSTITUTE Training conservancy rangers in the art of camouflage, Borana Ranch, northern Kenya. Ranger recruits are selected from applicants across all 27 conservancies and will form part of a multi-ethnic team once training is completed, at which time they will also receive weapons to replace sticks.
David Chancellor —INSTITUTE Lioness, northern Kenya David Chancellor —INSTITUTE A Kenyan Wildlife service officer puts down a mortally wounded elephant that was shot, but managed to escape from poachers, Westgate Community Conservancy, Northern Kenya. David Chancellor —INSTITUTE Members of "Call Sign 9.2" community conservancy anti-poaching unit at the scene of a poaching, Kalama Community Conservancy, Northern Kenya. David Chancellor —INSTITUTE A sedated Grevy’s zebra is fitted with a satellite transmitting collar at Lekurruki Community Conservancy, northern Kenya.
Its movement will be monitored by scientists in the US. Over recent years the decline in the numbers of zebras -- 80% in the past three decades -- has been primarily due to poaching, killing for meat, and loss of access to critical resources due to competition with domestic livestock. David Chancellor —INSTITUTE Monitoring a lion's movements in the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, northern Kenya. David Chancellor —INSTITUTE More Must-Reads From TIME East Palestine, One Year After Train Derailment How Tech Giants Turned Ukraine Into an AI War Lab In the Belly of MrBeast The Closers: 18 People Working to End the Racial Wealth Gap How Long Should You Isolate With COVID-19? The Best Romantic Comedies to Watch on Netflix Taylor Swift Is TIME's 2023 Person of the Year Want Weekly Recs on What to Watch, Read, and More? Sign Up for Worth Your Time