Pilot Who Fell in Love With Rhinos


Ian Lemaiyan is a pilot. PHOTO | COURTESY


  • His love for planes and wildlife started when he was a child.
  • Ian urges Kenyans to look beyond the Coast.

Ian Lemaiyan, a pilot and a scientist, who is in charge of the rhino monitoring team at Lewa Wildlife Conservancy says most Kenyans spend more cash in clubs and on alcohol and little on wildlife tourism because they lack information on how beautiful Kenya is.

“I’ve been in Nairobi and even to the clubs...people spend a lot of money. If they were exposed to places like Sera Conservancy where you can walk with rhinos or Reteti where they can donate and roam with elephants, they might be more proactive about joining conservation. The message isn’t just spread enough as is, for instance, done with beer adverts,” he says.

His love for planes and wildlife started when he was a child .

“My grandad loved aeroplanes and my mother was into conservation and wildlife,” he says. Before joining Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), Ian did not know rhinos existed.

‘‘During my internship at KWS, I read a sad article about poaching. I requested to volunteer at the Veterinary and Capture Department. That’s how I got into a Toyota Land Cruiser and went to the park and for the first time I saw and touched a rhino's face. I couldn’t understand why people killed it. It seemed so humane to me, expressed its emotions and that made me fall in love with it,” he says.



Thereafter, he assisted with rhino ear-notching to help in identifying the animals, as well as with their translocation from Lewa to Borana Conservancy. After that, Ian says, he wanted to see what else he could with rhinos and when the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy job came calling, he gladly took it. He ignited his flying passion and joined Wilson Airport and last year, he got a private pilot license.

Ian urges Kenyans to look beyond the Coast. “Kenya is very diverse. Come get connected with wildlife. Once we get more Kenyans exploring this region we can be sure we’ll have species for future generations,” says the pilot.

There are many less-travelled conservancies with swimming pools built in the wilderness, forests in Marsabit, deserts in the North region, lakes with flamingos in Turkana, sand dunes, mountains such as Ololokwe and Mathews Range where tourists can enjoy helicopter sundowners.

‘‘If you love adventure, Northern Kenya is your playground,” he says.