The inspection of cars competing in this year’s Rhino Charge in Songa Conservancy, Marsabit County, is underway today.
The competitor car inspection process known as ‘scrutineering’ is being conducted at the site located approximately 500km North of Nairobi, and barely 5km off the newly tarmacked Isiolo-Marsabit-Moyale highway. The scrutineering officials are checking, among others, safety features, modification brought to the competing cars, tyre sizes, to ensure a level playing field for all cars competing in the rugged terrain, ensure safety during the competition and mitigate potential adverse impacts on the environment.
Whenever the Rhino Charge is held, it helps profile tourism and conservation potential of the host conservancy. Like other previous host communities, the Rendille are to benefit immensely for providing access to their conservancy as it has become a standing practice wherever the motorsport fundraising event is held.
Songa Community Conservancy is one of three new conservancies in Marsabit, along with Jaldesa and Shurr community conservancies. This triangular shaped Conservancy is bordered by Jaldesa and Shurr conservancies, as well as Marsabit National Park. As such, it forms an important puzzle piece for established wildlife migration routes for descendants of Ahmed, the legendary elephant whose remains are preserved at the National Museums of Kenya in Nairobi. Wildlife species found in the conservancy include elephant, greater kudu, Grevy’s zebra, giraffe and numerous bird species.
This semi-arid region, in the far north of Kenya close to the Ethiopian border, faces multiple challenges for the local pastoralist communities. Insecurity, frequent droughts and an increase in the population of livestock have led to desertification in many areas, diminishing habitats for wildlife and conflicts over water and pasture.
The conservancy was registered with the Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT) in 2013 after 12 community representatives visited community conservancies in neighbouring Samburu County and were impressed by how livelihoods were benefiting from improved land management practices that support wildlife conservation, greener grasslands and healthier cattle. Although still in the initial stages, the communities of Songa have already noticed a reduction in insecurity incidents (such as cattle rustling). The conservancy is also supported by the County Government of Marsabit, Kenya Wildlife Service and Kenya Forest Service, in addition to NRT.
The proceeds from the vehicle entry fee (also known as Landowners Access Fee) paid by all vehicles entering the Venue will go towards supporting community projects in the conservancy. These projects may include building of school infrastructure and water tanks, enhancing the management of the conservancy and strengthening security in the area. During the past two years’ event, KES 4.2 million and KES 4.8 million were given to the host communities in Kalepo (Namunyak Conservancy), Samburu County, and Ol Ongaianiet, Narok County, respectively.
In addition to the direct cash contribution derived from the Landowners Access Fee, the Rhino Charge helps profile the tourism and conservation potentials of the host conservancy. Free medical services are also provided to the host communities by the Rhino Charge medical team led by Dr. Pramod Shah.
Funds raised by the competitors are used for Rhino Ark conservation work in Kenya’s mountain forested sources of water, known as ‘water towers’. This includes building a 450 km fence around Mt. Kenya and a 45 km fence in South Western Mau, maintaining the 400 km Aberdare Electric Fence and the recently completed 43.3 km Mau Eburu Electric Fence, as well as supporting the livelihood of fence-adjacent communities and engaging them in conservation. During the 2016 edition of the Rhino Charge, KES 139 million was raised by the competing teams.
This year’s event is being promoted by Brand Kenya as a home-grown national initiative to address conservation challenges facing the country’s mountain forests.
Photographs of the on-going activities of the event are accessible at: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/r7xgwtzr6adaigc/AAB0-hav4zxheSW2RalglWBLa?dl=0. For photo credits, use the file name.
The digital channels of the Rhino Charge and Rhino Ark are: