Learn More About Rhino Ark’s Conservation Work

#RhinoArk Charitable Trust News and Support Appeal

RHINO ARK CHARITABLE TRUST

INFORMATION UPDATE

Chargers, Sponsors and Friends of Rhino Ark,

Pressures to respond

As Rhino Ark increases the size and scope of its operations, pressures to continue the efficient management of completed projects, such as the fences around the Aberdares and Mount Eburu – as well as fence construction on Mount Kenya – intensify. Other areas in the degraded Mau escarpment, and even the distant Kakamega Forest, are similarly in need of protection.

“At the end of the day, additional resources will be needed if other projects – no less vital for the environment of the country – are to be undertaken” says Christian Lambrechts, Executive Director of Rhino Ark. “The communities which rely on these fragile ecosystems are beginning to raise their voices when they see the benefits that Rhino Ark, working with its partners, the KWS and the KFS, can bring. It is no secret that communities farming close to the forest edge in the Aberdares have seen the value of their land rise fivefold. Eburu communities are also benefiting from their fence – and so will the communities farming on the slopes of Mount Kenya”.

Mount Kenya ecosystems and its challenges

Over a third of the eventual 450 kilometre electrified fence around Mount Kenya has now been completed – though work slowed in the middle of the year because of the late delivery and release of fence materials. But the gap in the Imenti Forest fence has been closed which had been a serious cause of human-wildlife conflict. Here the fence crosses three roads, Meru-Nanyuki, Meru-Ruiri and Kirachene-Mailkumi – but instead of building elephant grids, as was done in the Aberdares, which are costly and less appropriate for busy highways, fence extensions of 100 metres have been constructed on both sides of the road in protected areas. The extensions have been completed and the new approach seems to be working well.

Two gates are being built on the northern section of Upper Imenti to allow elephants, coming from Shaba-Isiolo and Meru National Park, to enter the Imenti Forest.

On the whole, illegal activities in the forests of Mount Kenya have been restrained. But as revealed by a surveillance flight in May over forest areas in the counties of Kirinyaga, Embu and Tharaka Nithi, new marijuana planting was located as well as logging of camphor trees. Interventions were then undertaken on the ground.

Forest rehabilitation

As a sign of the commitment of local communities, over 300 people met at Karuri, on the northern slopes of Mount Kenya last May to plant 42,000 indigenous seedlings. This exercise was coordinated by the Mount Kenya Trust, supported by Rhino Ark, KWS, KFS, the Ontulili Community Forest Association and local schools. This followed the stated wish of the partners to rehabilitate the Karuri area which had been illegally clear-felled decades ago. Peter Kinyua, KFS Chairman, participated in the planting with his family. He publically supported the designation of Karuri as an “indigenous forest area” revising the previous designation of “commercial forest plantation area” by KFS.

Karuri is of critical importance as it forms a narrow forest belt on the northern slopes of Mount Kenya that separates the moorland from neighbouring farms and acts as a wildlife corridor.

KFS Chairman Peter Kinyua planting trees in Karuri area
Wildlife corridor gaining momentum

In July, Rhino Ark, the Mount Kenya Conservation Forum and other key partners, participated in a one-day workshop of landowners located in the proposed corridor – and then paid a visit to the Eburu Forest – Lake Naivasha wildlife corridor to learn lessons from this successful project and discuss, with local landowners the benefits and challenges of wildlife corridors.

The Landowners then set up a committee to spearhead the establishment of the corridor and walked together across the corridor to gain further understanding of its location and extent. It was also a great opportunities for the landowners to know each other better.

Aberdares – forest health and illegal activities

The elephant census in the Aberdares – par of the Forest Health Survey – has been completed. The final estimate is a healthy 3, 939 elephants. The findings and recommendations of the three elephant censuses covering Mount Kenya, the Aberdares and the Mau Forest complex, are being made available to the Kenya Government.

During the census, two areas emerged as illegal activity hotspots – Kipipiri Hill and the south-eastern tip of the Aberdare conservation area in Kiambu County. Rhino Ark alerted KWS and KFS to this situation and sent the Aberdare Joint Surveillance Unit (AJSU) to Kipipiri and Wanjohi for three weeks. Charcoal production and cedar post splitting were found to be rife around Manunga and KanyuaMbaki. The situation is now greatly improved.

A team from ASJU was also sent into the forest reserve and the national park in Northern Aberdares to deal with incursions of livestock during draught earlier this year. Grass cutting was also prevalent in the national park. A public meeting was held and warnings given about entering the park for grass cutting and illegal activities. Cedar posts cut in Malewa were traced to a farm at the bottom of the escarpment. During its operations in July, AJSU removed a number of snares and noted that cutting grass and cedar logging had been reduced.

One of the most popular events in the Aberdare Calendar, the Aberdares Fence Relay Run, was flagged off by Dr. Margaret Atieno, CEO of Wildlife Club of Kenya, in July. Six hundred children and 120 teachers from 60 schools took part in the run around the 400 kilometre fence. The schools were selected from 97 schools, chosen for the quality and dedication of their conservation education activities.

Wildlife Club of Kenya CEO Dr. Margaret Atieno fagging off the Aberdare Fence Relay Run
Eburu – supporting communities and environmental education

As part of the environment education programme introduced by Rhino Ark in 32 schools in the Eburu Forest area, Rhino Ark organised a conservation education workshop for teachers in Naivasha last April. This was an opportunity to include new teachers in the programme and share experience and examples of best practice. Ministry of Education officials participated as well as eight newly inducted Eburu Conservation Champions. Drawn from locations adjacent to Eburu Forest, the Champions are a team of community volunteers who participate in an outreach programme with an active social media group, an invaluable way of disseminating information and highlighting threats to the forest.

Construction of three nurseries at Eburu and Loldia primary schools has been completed, with tree nursery management training for staff and pupils at Songoloi, Eburu and Loldia schools carried out by KFS with support from Rhino Ark. The tree nurseries are now fully operational. Two new nurseries are being established at Morop and Elementaita primary schools.

Rhino Ark continues its support for the community livelihoods platform. Through the Wildlife Rhino Ark Supported Corridor Committee, a link between the Eburu farmers’ self-help group and the Nuffield Scholars, an international group of farmers, has been established. Through this link, Eburu farmers receive support and recently benefitted from a donation of a chicken incubator unit.

New Partnerships for Eburu

Eburru Rafiki, an environmental community-based organisation with a focus on forest rehabilitation and support for forest access road improvement, undertaken with KFS, recently secured funds for grassroots educational outreach work to be developed and implemented by Rhino Ark. The focus will be community sensitization on forest conservation, governance and alternative livelihoods, to complement ongoing Rhino Ark programmes over a number of years.

Meanwhile the Kenya Rural Roads Authority (KeRRA), with the mandate of offering guidance in the construction, maintenance and management of rural roads, is being asked to provide the design and budget for the wildlife overpass which will secure the wildlife corridor.

The 2017-2022 Eburu Participatory Forest Management Plan (EPFMP) review process, facilitated by Rhino Ark, has been completed. The document was approved by KFS and a joint KFS/Eburu Community Team completed negotiations of the Forest Management Agreement (FMA) – the basis for co-management of the forest by KFS and the local community for the next five years. Rhino Ark was invited to participate in the FMA negotiation process and also provided logistical support.

Rehabilitation

As part of the ongoing rehabilitation of Eburu Forest’s degraded areas, staff of the MPESA Foundation joined in June with members of the local community and soldiers of the Kenya Defence Force to plant 7,000 new trees in the Morop area of Eburu Forest. The MPESA Foundation has a special relationship with Eburu having provided the funds to construct the entire fence in 2013.

The Eburu Guidebook has now been published. The guidebook gives the most comprehensive coverage on record of the remarkably diverse flora, fauna and ecology of the mountain. Six nature trails are featured with detailed route notes and illustrated descriptions of forest areas.

South Western Mau

Rhino Ark has signed a funding agreement with the Netherlands-based IDH Sustainable Trade Initiative for their project “Initiative for Sustainable Landscape (ISLA)” aimed at conserving the South Western Mau Forest Reserve, the longest forest block in the Mau Forest complex. This project is being implemented from June 2017 to December 2018. It is being funded by the IDH Sustainable Trade Initiative and the Safaricom Foundation.

While the project focuses on forest conservation, sustainable energy and community alternative livelihoods, it will also include undertaking a study for the construction of a 45 kilometre electric fence along the north-western boundary.

The June quarterly surveillance flight over the area showed an increase in illegal cattle grazing and makeshift structures in the forest. It has been agreed to take the necessary interventions on the ground.

Security in the area is being strengthened with two additional outposts being built by Rhino Ark and Kenya Wildlife Service with financial support from Finlays, making a total of five to secure the north-eastern boundary of South Western Mau.

Finlays, Rhino Ark and IDH/ISLA have donated equipment to reinforce security and law enforcement activities, in particular multiple-day patrols. Tents, sleeping bags, backpacks, mountaineering boots and gum boots were given to KWS and KFS rangers operating in South Western Mau. The equipment was procured by Rhino Ark with funds received from Finlays.

Hand-over of law enforcement equipment, attended by, among others, James Finlays Managing Director Guy Chambers, James Finlays Group Finance Director Julian Rutherford, James Finlays (Kenya) Managing Director Simeon Hutchinson, Rhino Ark Executive Director Christian Lambrechts, IDH/ISLA Programme Manager Winnie Mwaniki, KFS Ecosystem Conservator Thomas Kiptoo and KWS Warden Salome Chelelgo
Rhino Charge 2017

The Rhino Charge, Rhino Ark’s main fundraising event of the year, again beat all records, raising a staggering US$ 1.3 million. It was held in the most remote northern location yet and was certainly one of the toughest Charges on record, providing only one finisher.

This year, Rhino Ark also made a commitment to make the Rhino Charge “climate neutral”. Rhino Ark estimated the CO2 emissions relating to the event which amounted to 486 tonnes and purchased corresponding offsets. The bulk of the emission (60%) involved travel to the venue which was 500kms from Nairobi. Commenting on this footprint estimate made by Rhino Ark, the UNFCCC (United Nations Convention on Climate Change) stated: “This is actually excellent work. Congratulations for taking this task so seriously. It’s a great example of commitment.”

Certificate received by Rhino Ark after purchasing the required offsets to compensate for the 2017 Rhino Charge Co2 emissions
Fund Raising

Rhino Ark is currently involved in an international fundraising programme, starting in the UK and highlighting areas for support such as the preservation of the gravely endangered Mountain Bongo and the development of wildlife corridors linking important populations of elephant, buffalo and antelope. A short film on Rhino Ark will be launched in London on 2 November by Lord Aberdare, Patron of Rhino Ark, partly sponsored by the international law firm, Stephenson Harwood. The film is being made by Camerapix TV, headed by Salim Amin, son of the legendary photo-journalist, the late Mohamed Amin.

New Challenges

A visit was made in June to Kakamega Forest in western Kenya by the Board of Directors of Rhino Ark to assess the status of, and threats to, the forest and whether there was a need for Rhino Ark to be involved in its longterm conservation. The visit was facilitated by the KFS Chairman, Peter Kinyua. His deputy and the KFS deputy director in charge of forest conservation, also participated. In the forest, the delegation met with senior KFS and KWS staff as well as Mr. Sylvester Mambili, the chairman of the local community forest association. A surveillance flight over the forest was also organized.

Following this visit, Mr. Mambili came to the Aberdares and Mt. Kenya to learn about the benefits of the electric fences built by Rhino Ark and its partners.

Rhino Ark directors together with KFS Chairman, KFS Vice-Chairperson, Chairman of the community forest association and KFS senior field managers during their visit to Kakamega Forest
Honours

Colin Church, who was Chairman of the Rhino Ark Management Committee from 2000 to 2012, was awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE) by the Queen for “services to conservation, the environment and community in Kenya”.

Further information:

  • 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
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