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Photo of a northern white rhino and an armed guard from series 'No Man’s Land' selected for Px3 'State of the World' collection. 2021.
Copyright  Justin Mott / PX3

Guardians of the northern white rhino: The world’s most endangered species

By Scott Brownlee

With no male northern white rhinos left on the planet, these photos are a love letter to the armed guards protecting the last two remaining females, Fatu and Najin.

Justin Mott’s photo series, 'No Man’s Land', gives us an insight into daily life in Kenya’s Ol Pejeta Conservancy, where rangers guard the last two northern white rhinos, the most endangered mammals on Earth.

The rhino duo, a mother and daughter, were born in captivity in European zoos and were brought to the sanctuary along with two other males back in 2009. It was hoped that a return to their native environment would increase the chances of reproduction.

Justin Mott / PX3
Photo of Fatu and Najin, the last two northern white rhinos from series 'No Man’s Land' selected for Px3 'State of the World' collection. 2021.Justin Mott / PX3
rangers guard the last two remaining northern white rhinos, the most endangered mammals on Earth
Justin Mott / PX3
Photo of a northern white rhino and an armed guard from series 'No Man’s Land' selected for Px3 'State of the World' collection. 2021.Justin Mott / PX3
Justin Mott / PX3
Photo of Fatu and Najin, the last two northern white rhinos from series 'No Man’s Land' selected for Px3 'State of the World' collection. 2021.Justin Mott / PX3

By 2018 both males had died and the fate of the species was left in the hands of the two females, a team of German scientists, and their armed protectors.

A Biorescue team led by researchers from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Germany, has been racing against time with a breeding program including IVF techniques, which use the frozen sperm of dead male rhinos.

Last week however, the team announced they had decided to retire Najin, a 32-year-old northern white rhino, from their breeding program for ethical reasons. Effectively leaving the fate of the species on the shoulders of her daughter, Fatu.

Justin Mott / PX3
Photo of a northern white rhino and shadow of an armed guard from series 'No Man’s Land' selected for Px3 'State of the World' collection. 2021.Justin Mott / PX3
Justin Mott / PX3
Photo of a northern white rhino and guards from series 'No Man’s Land' selected for Px3 'State of the World' collection. 2021.Justin Mott / PX3
Justin Mott / PX3
Photo of a northern white rhino and an armed guard from series 'No Man’s Land' selected for Px3 'State of the World' collection. 2021.Justin Mott / PX3
Justin Mott / PX3
Researchers perform check-up on northern white rhino from series 'No Man’s Land' selected for Px3 'State of the World' collection. 2021.Justin Mott / PX3

Once common across northern Africa, the northern white rhino subspecies has suffered catastrophic decline due to widespread poaching and civil war in their native habitat and are now considered extinct in the wild.

Najin and Fatu reside in a 700-acre enclosure with 24-hour armed security. The caretakers who patrol the park encounter the likes of lions and marauding poachers, the latter of which fired on the guardians in 2018 leading to a firefight that left three poachers dead.

Justin Mott / PX3
Photo of a guardian of the last northern white rhinos from series 'No Man’s Land' selected for Px3 'State of the World' collection. 2021.Justin Mott / PX3
Justin Mott / PX3
Photo of a northern white rhino and an armed guard from series 'No Man’s Land' selected for Px3 'State of the World' collection. 2021.Justin Mott / PX3
Justin Mott / PX3
Photo of a northern white rhino and an armed guard from series 'No Man’s Land' selected for Px3 'State of the World' collection. 2021.Justin Mott / PX3

Mott's photo series made the curatorial selection for The Prix de la Photographie Paris' (Px3) 'State of the World' photo contest.

The aim of the contest is to share important global stories, in order to focus our eyes and minds on issues that are current and crucial in our world.

'No Man’s Land' opened to the public yesterday along with other winning works at the Px3 Paris Photo Prize exhibition, which is open until October 31 at Espace Beaurepaire in Paris.