Flowers in a Thorn Tree is the story of wildlife conservation in Northern Kenya. Over three years, Thackston made several trips to Kenya, whereupon he would imbed with ranger units of the Northern Rangelands Trust. They’re known as the Warriors for Peace and Wildlife. He lived off a troop-carrier. He would patrol, eat and sleep with the rangers, photographing them as they chased poachers, murderers, and as they worked within the pastoral communities. In this regard, the book is very much an “On the Road,” book. The aim of the photographer is to show and let the pictures tell, in a nonlinear and organic manner.
NRT rangers work both on and off of their respective conservancies (there are 5 ranger groups, the 9-1 through the 9-5 sprinkled throughout northern Kenya.) Amongst the pastoral peoples, they have contacts who tell them about the movements of animal herds and potential poaching rings. They also work as peacekeepers within these communities with the idea that a happy and stable community is less likely to feel the need to poach an endangered animal.
The mission to change the hearts and minds of the pastoral people regarding the treatment of endangered animals, is instilled within the ranks of the ranger units. The elephants and rhinos that appear in this book are all rescue animals or live on conservancies. They would probably not be alive without the efforts of men, particularly the rangers who populate my book.
The rangers believe in their work. This group of humble men have one of the most important jobs in the world and they are succeeding. That’s good for you and me and our families.