Tuesday, February 11, 2014
An expedition to Kenya proved to be a life-changing trip for Norfolk photographer Ian Aitken – and now it is hoped his images will help make a difference to an endangered species.
The father-of-two from Reepham captured exclusive photographs of four of the last six remaining northern white rhinos in the world during a trip to the Ol Pejeta Conservancy.
Rhinos Najin, Fatu, Sudan and Suni were relocated to the East African sanctuary from a zoo in the Czech Republic five years ago in a bid to breed them and help bring the species back from the verge of extinction.
During Mr Aitken’s trip in January 2012, he got up close and personal with the animals – and after taking his images, vowed to do something to help them.
His photos have since been exhibited at the Royal Geographical Society.
This week, the prints will be on display at the Natural History Museum as part of the UK government-hosted London Conference on the Illegal Wildlife Trade, which will be attended by Prince Charles, Prince William, prime minister David Cameron and foreign secretary William Hague, plus policymakers and campaigners from 50 countries.
The conference aims to tackle the wildlife trade by strengthening law enforcement, reducing demand for illegal products and supporting sustainable livelihoods for communities in affected areas.
Mr Aitken, 46, who was brought up in East Africa and has worked as a photographer for more than 20 years, said: “When I was taking photos of the rhinos, one of them walked up to me and nuzzled her head into my stomach.
“I was completely blown away. I was frozen stiff and had shivers down my spine. They are huge animals, a couple of tonnes if not more, they are massive – but when it nuzzled me, it was so gentle. It was from that moment, I thought I had to do something for these animals.”
Mr Aitken’s photos will be on display at the special reception tomorrow and the conference itself on Thursday.
His prints, which have been platinum printed and framed, are available to buy from www.aitkenprints.co.uk. Fifty per cent of every print sold goes to helping to save the northern white rhino.