Rhino Ark’s Conservation Work – How much was raised and where does the money go to

Rhino Ark Charitable Trust Final update on the 2017 Rhino Charge event



Rhino Chargers, Sponsors and Friends of Rhino Ark,

Rhino Charge raised KES 153 million

The Rhino Charge 2017 held on the 3rd June in the Songa Conservancy, Marsabit County, raised a record KES 153,499,914 (USD 1.48 million). This beat last year’s figure of KES 139 million (USD 1.34 million) by adding another KES 14 million to secure the new all-time record.

The event was won by Gray Cullen (The Smiling Shenzies) in Car 22 being the only team which managed to visit all the 13 guard posts against all odds as required by the event rules. Results are available at www.rhinocharge.co.ke/results

Winning team of Car 22 together with Rhino Ark Chairman Isaac Awuondo
The highest fundraiser was Peter Kinyua (Car 23), who raised KES 15,553,311. Kinyua is the Chairman of the Kenya Forest Service. This is the highest ever figure raised by an individual competitor in a year since the Rhino Charge was established in 1989. He broke last year’s record of KES 14.5 million by Stanley Kinyanjui of Car 62 (Magnate Chargers). In second and third positions were Peter Bonde Nielsen (Car 64) with KES 8,839,850 and Alan McKittrick (Car 5) with KES 6,924,370, respectively.

David Lowe, Clerk of the Course, said: “The Rhino Charge is primarily a fundraising event for the conservation of Kenya’s prime mountain forests and key sources of water. Its overall mission is to help secure the future of this nation and the well-being of the people of Kenya”.

During prize-giving, the Ken Kuhle Trophy for services to conservation was awarded to David Njenga of Kenya Forest Service for his exemplary work in protecting forests in Mt Kenya. The trophy is named in honour of Ken Kuhle, one of the three founders of Rhino Charge.

Drought brought new conservation challenges in the mountain forests

Even with a completed fence – commissioned by the then President Mwai Kibaki nearly eight years ago – the Aberdares continue to face challenges. Sometimes these are natural occurrences such as the ten fires that have raged in the Aberdare ecosystem – partly due to the failure of the rains and a tinderbox situation that has caused a devastating drought in regions of Kenya north of the Aberdares. In one such fire 18,000 acres of moorlands around Satima peak were burnt. Fortunately the rains, though late, arrived.

I pay tribute to our partners, the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and the Kenya Forest Service (KFS), as well as community members and our own Rhino Ark staff, for ensuring that indigenous forest fires have been avoided so far, as well as fires in the central moorlands,” comments Christian Lambrechts, Executive Director of Rhino Ark.

Moorland fire in the Northern Aberdares as seen during a recce flight conducted by Rhino Ark to record the location and direction of the fire lines and provide real time information to the fire-fighting teams on the ground on priority areas to be tackled and best access routes to reach those areas.

The most comprehensive elephant census and forest health survey ever undertaken in the Aberdares was carried out in February in which the Aberdare Joint Surveillance Unit (AJSU) participated. Eight teams traversed the Aberdares and preliminary findings put the elephant population at a healthy 4,000. In the course of the survey a number of illegal ‘hotspots’ were discovered – around Kipipiri Hill and the south eastern tip of the Aberdare Conservation Area in Kiambu County. Both KWS and AJSU are addressing these problems.

Progress around Mount Kenya

While construction of the electrified fence progresses, fires have also afflicted Mount Kenya. There have been ten fires – the largest burning 3,800 acres of moorland. A further fire has been burning indigenous forest and bushland in Kangaita (Ontulili Forest Station). With the local communities mobilised for the several months to combat fires, staunch support has also come from the Kenya Defence Forces based in Nanyuki. Rhino Ark has provided support, too, in terms of rations and recce flights to guide the fire-fighting teams on the ground.

The fence itself has now reached 155 kilometres. The original phase II has been extended to 74 kilometres, to include Thunguru Hill Forest, involving the demarcation and clearing of the fence line by KFS which cuts across a member of privately owned tea fields.

Human-wildlife conflict

A boundary dispute causing a 3.3 kilometre gap in the Imenti Forest Fence, leading to human-wildlife conflict, has been resolved after high level meetings between Rhino Ark and KFS. The human-wildlife conflict figures in Imenti were alarming with 10 community members being killed by elephants or electrocuted by home-made fences over a two year period. During this time, ten elephants were also killed. The local community have pledged to support the new fence that will fill the gap.

Says Christian Lambrechts, “human-wildlife conflict must be addressed to protect the lives of Kenyans and their property and to secure their commitment to conservation. This is paramount as communities surround all protected areas. Since we moved to the Imenti Forest last year in March, no casualty has been recorded. A major improvement from the previous two years

The point was emphasised by a visit from the British High Commissioner to Kenya, Nic Hailey, who ‘planted’ a new fence post in the Imenti Forest area in March. He addressed community leaders and met with families and victims of wildlife incidents. He later wrote to the Executive Director commenting, “I learnt an enormous amount about what you and Rhino Ark are doing to ensure that communities and wildlife can live together for the benefit of both.”

British High Commissioner Nic Hailey unveiling the plaque commemorating the placement of a fencing post in the Imenti Forest (Mt. Kenya)

Managing Mount Eburu

The 43.3 kilometres Eburu Electric Fence was completed in November 2014. It is maintained by a 12-man team comprising 11 fence attendants and one supervisor, all reporting to the KFS Eburu Forest Manager. A Fence Technical Committee, comprising Rhino Ark, KFS and KWS, meets monthly at different locations to help identify and resolve issues. In the dry season, frequent forest fires are among the key challenges – sometimes damaging the fence which is then immediately repaired by the fence maintenance team.

The completed 851 metre fence section on the western boundary wildlife corridor is now fully operational. Staff of Loldia Viewland Farm maintain that fence section, with technical advice from the Eburu fence supervisor. A trap camera, placed at the geothermal steam-fed water trough, has caught images of buffalo drinking at the trough as part of their regular routine.

Completed electric fence along the western boundary of the wildlife corridor between Eburu Forest and Lake Naivasha

Supporting local communities

Rhino Ark’s conservation education and community outreach initiatives continue to expand – with the Eburu schools’ model tree nurseries moving forward. The completed Songoloi Primary School tree nursery has already started operations with training for the school in planting seed in the sowing beds. The construction of Eburu Primary School tree nursery has also been completed with the Loldia Primary School nursery school nearing completion. These nurseries present new opportunities and skills for the schoolchildren involved.

Rhino Ark is continuing to support the community livelihoods programme. The Eburu Fruit Farmers’ Association has now transplanted tree tomatoes and avocado seedlings and distributed these to the farms of individual members.

A number of projects are helping to promote the area for tourism. These include an Eburu guidebook and a ‘birds of Eburu information and brochure kit’. A recent survey identified 96 species of birds in the area.

Expanding in the Mau

Over the last two years, Rhino Ark has been advising the Netherlands – based IDH Sustainable Trade Initiative on their project “Initiative for Sustainable Landscape (ISLA)” aimed at conserving the South Western Mau Forest Reserve. This is the largest forest block in the Mau Forests Complex, covering 60,000 hectares. It is the second forest block in the Mau where Rhino Ark is operating – after Eburu.

Quarterly surveillance flights – the last including the Chairman of the Safaricom Foundation, which financed the building of the Eburu fence – are identifying illegal activities which have now been reduced since the previous flight in September last year. The location of two new outposts has been identified – to bring to a total of five that will secure the north-eastern boundary of South Western Mau. One of the two outposts at Arorwet has been completed. A ground survey of priority areas to be rehabilitated along the north-eastern boundary has been completed – with 32 plots, of 10 hectare each, identified and demarcated.

The elephant census and forest health survey carried out in 2016 in the Mau Forests Complex, estimated the elephant population at 651. They were found in five southern forest blocks – Western Mau, South Western Mau, Trans Mara, Maasai Mau and OI Pusimoru.

Team that conducted the elephant census and forest health survey in the Mau Forests Complex
The survey highlighted the high illegal extraction of forest resources across most of the 22 forest blocks. Livestock and charcoal were seen as the main threats. A separate livestock count, carried out by IDH/ ISLA, estimated that there were 24,000 head of livestock in South Western Mau – an unsustainable level.

Mountain Bongo

The oversight committee on the recovery and conservation of the mountain bongo, of which Rhino Ark is a member, has made recommendations on improving the health of the captive herd at the Mount Kenya Game Ranch – feed, enclosure and grouping being the main problems. Through the Calgary Zoological Society, a US $636,000 proposal on the recovery and conservation of the bongo has been submitted to the Sagré Foundation.

Climate Neutrality

Rhino Ark has made a commitment to make the Rhino Charge “climate neutral” by offsetting the CO2 emissions relating to the running of the event, including the CO2 emissions related to all vehicles coming to the event, whether competitors, officials, sponsors, camp providers or spectators.

To achieve this, Rhino Ark will calculate the climate footprint of the Charge and purchase the corresponding offset. Rhino Charge has also joined the Climate Neutral Now movement (http://climateneutralnow.org/Pages/Orgs.aspx).
  • The Rhino Ark, the charitable trust that supports conservation in Kenya, is building lasting benefits for the forest edge communities of the Aberdares, Mount Kenya and Mau Mount Eburu.
  • Following the successful completion of the 400 km Aberdare fence in 2009, Rhino Ark is expanding its conservation work to protect and preserve the forests of Mount Kenya and Mau Mount Eburu, with the construction of electrified fences around these critically important conservation areas. The Mount Eburu fence has been completed.
  • Rhino Ark was established in 1988 by the conservationist and engineer, the late Ken Kuhle, in response to the threat of poaching in the salient of the Aberdare National Park and to mitigate human-wildlife conflict affecting the farming communities of the area.
  • The Rhino Charge in Kenya and Rhino Charge UK, two unique off-road motor competitions, take place annually to raise funds for, and awareness about, Rhino Ark. Rhino Ark’s conservation work also receives support from the Kenya Government and the private sector.
  • The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report on the impacts of the Aberdare Fence Project is available at: http://www.unep.org/PDF/PressReleases/Rhino_Ark_Main_Report.pdf