Rhino Ark – the latest news



Chargers, Sponsors and Friends of Rhino Ark,
President Uhuru Kenyatta “deeply grateful” to Rhino Ark

Kenya’s Head of State, Uhuru Kenyatta, has expressed his gratitude “for the tremendous fencing and conservation work Rhino Ark has accomplished over the past 30 years in close partnership with my Government, in particular the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) and the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS). Millions of Kenyans across many counties directly rely on these water catchment areas for their livelihood and economic development.”

In an address read for him by Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Forestry, Keriako Tokiko, at the 30th anniversary event for both the Rhino Ark and the Rhino Charge (which helps to underpin the costs of its projects), President Kenyatta said he was “delighted to note that the Aberdares and Mount Eburu forest ecosystems are now fenced off and better protected. These efforts have not only reduced human-wildlife conflict and secured the forest ecosystems, but have also improved the lives and livelihoods of the people who live around them.”

“I am also informed that Rhino Ark has completed 40 percent of what will be a 450-kilometre electric fence around Mount Kenya, and is in the early stage of engagement for similar projects in South Western Mau and Kakamega forest.”

At the function last November, attended by over 400 guests at Amani Gardens in Karura Forest, Nairobi, a book on the history of the Rhino Charge – Thirty Year of the Rhino Charge – was launched. President Kenyatta described the Charge as “a demonstration of a true spirit of commitment by so many Kenyans to conserving the natural heritage and securing the well-being of our nation.”

Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Forestry, Keriako Tobiko (centre), Principal Secretary for Tourism and Wildlife, Margaret Mwakima (right) and the author of the Rhino Charge book, Gavin Bennett (left).
Guests at Amani Garden, Karura Forest, during the 30th anniversary function.
Mount Kenya – one-way traffic

The one-way elephant gate, built along the Imenti electric fence, has been used for the first time by elephants, as revealed in camera-trap photographs. The experimental one-way gate was built with support from the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Mount Kenya Trust – an NGO established in 2000, which helps protect and restore the integrity of the forests and wildlife of Mount Kenya. The gate allows elephants coming from northern Kenya, such as the Shaba National Reserve, to enter the forest, while preventing elephant inside the forest from invading adjacent farms. The elephant can then return to the northern areas, using the Mount Kenya-Ngare Ndare wildlife corridor – a 14-kilometre traditional elephant migratory pathway between Laikipia and Samburu.

At the end of last year 182 kilometres of the Rhino Ark fence had been built, with current fence construction in the Kibaranyeki section in the lower part of the Upper Imenti Forest Reserve. Two fence energizer houses are currently being built at Thambana and Chogoria with funding from KWS.

Inevitably there are occasional setbacks. The Kenya Rural Roads Authority (KeRRA) decided to stop construction of four elephant grids along the fence in the Upper Imenti Forest for funding considerations but fortunately reviewed that decision.

Elephant passing through the one-way gate along the Imenti Electric Fence (Mt. Kenya).
Fence energizer house at Chogoria (Mt. Kenya) nearly completed. The house will host the fence power system and will accommodate four fence attendants.
Forest rehabilitation on Mount Kenya

Rehabilitating degraded forest areas on Mount Kenya is becoming a serious part of the Rhino Ark programme. With the Mount Kenya Conservation Forum, KFS, KWS and local communities, Rhino Ark has started rehabilitation programmes in Naro Moru Forest Station. Earlier this year, Rhino Ark spearheaded the rehabilitation of degraded areas in Kabaru Forest Station. These activities complement other rehabilitation efforts by partners in different parts of Mount Kenya, such as Sirimon, Imenti and Karuri – with the involvement of Rhino Ark.

Fence rehabilitation in the Aberdares

“Fence rehabilitation is a major priority in the Aberdares”, says Rhino Ark’s Executive Director, Christian Lambrechts. “Part of the fencing goes back to the start of the Rhino Ark. Indeed, rehabilitation will be a continuous process for our project – and inevitably, an expensive one.”

Two rehabilitation programmes for phases I and II are currently being advanced. Twenty-three kilometres of fencing of the original 38 kilometres known as Phase I have been entirely rebuilt. With Phase II, 16.5 kilometres of the 40-kilometre section have also been rebuilt. The programme team is now working on the Mugunda – Kamiruri section.

Mau Eburu Priority

A current priority of the Lake Naivasha – Eburu forest connectivity committee is the proposed wildlife corridor overpass along the Moi North Lake Road at Loldia Farm. To design and budget for the overpass, Rhino Ark is contracting Terry McGuire, a Canadian expert who designed the first wildlife overpass of Canada and has since led the design and construction of 33 overpasses. It is expected that he will deliver a wildlife overpass schematic design by June this year.

Rhino Ark together, with project partner Kenya Forest Service (KFS), is currently seeking secure formal approval for the establishment of a second wildlife water point within the geothermal concession area from KENGEN (Kenya Electricity Generating Company).

Supporting communities at Eburu

The number of completed model tree nurseries has risen to nine with the construction of nurseries at Munanda and Tangi Tano Primary schools in Kiambogo location. The new nurseries will be fully operational within term 1 of the 2019 school year.

“Our interaction with the local community and work with schools is really paying dividends”, comments Christian Lambrechts.

The interaction includes facilitating linkages between the local community and officials from the office of the Ministry of Agriculture to provide advice on improved farming practices with the field team organizing visits each month. This support is helping farmers increase their yields with various crops – including pyrethrum.

The latest initiative is the establishment of biogas units. As a first phase, the community at Eburu location is installing biogas units on 20 farms – with three units already operational. The units are being procured by the community at concessionary rates. Rhino Ark is playing an important role in this process by facilitating community access to experts to manage this transition to higher technology.

One of the biogas units installed within the Eburu forest-adjacent community.
Community member in Eburu using biogas instead of firewood as cooking fuel.
The community, too, is benefitting from an outreach campaign, supported by Eburru Rafiki, to educate the community on issues of forest conservation, wildlife law, use of alternative energy, and best practices in agriculture. Last October, over 800 community members, from five administrative locations adjacent to the forest, attended presentations from specialists aimed at propagating pro-conservation attitudes within the community.

Materials such as posters and brochures were circulated among community members – and domestic charcoal making jikos demonstrated. A thousand wrist bands were developed and distributed to both adults and children – a constant reminder of the importance of the conservation campaign.

Support for conservation education programmes in local schools continues with visits by the project team. Monitoring of the Eburu Conservation Champions – with social media support – is proving popular with young people.

South Western Mau – Fencing project suspension

Plans to fence areas of South Western Mau have been put on hold by the Government which is now considering the restoration of the entire forest, including settled areas east of the current forest cut line – the site of the fence. This now impacts on the proposed Environmental and Social Impact Assessment for the fence, which was planned for the cut line, as a pre-condition for the actual fencing process. Co-funding project partners such as the tea industry (including Unilever and James Finlays Kenya), as well as the Safaricom Foundation, have been advised of this situation.

A proposal aimed at restoring the catchment values of the forest land excised in 2001, while avoiding the removal of 55,000 settlers residing there (94 percent of whom have title deeds) is also being considered by the Government.

Meanwhile, in collaboration with KFS and funding support from the Safaricom Foundation, 20 hectares of degraded indigenous forest at Kipkoris have been rehabilitated. The work was carried out between August and December last year.

Micro-fences have been constructed to protect the area from livestock damage. In total, over 17,000 seedlings have been planted and active patrols of these replanted areas are conducted by scouts from the adjacent community.

Community members building micro-fences to protect replanted areas at Kipkoris from fivestock damage.
Tree seedlings planted at Kipkoris to rehabilitate a degraded forest area.
Aerial Surveys

Two aerial surveillance flights were held in the second half of 2018 on 20 September and 22 November.

In the 20 September flight, the Bomet County Commissioner and the County Police Commander joined the flight and stayed for the post-flight briefing. During the flight, it was observed that illegal livestock continued to be a serious problem.

“It is so encouraging that representatives of important organs of Government take part in these flights”, comments Christian Lambrechts. “This reflects a deep commitment to the sustainable future of the region”.

In the community

The bio-enterprise (honey production) project continues to progress, with the consultant working with Rhino Ark’s field team. Ninety-two community user groups within the project area, covering Tinet and Kiptotoro locations, have now been reached. Capacity development work is focused on training in beekeeping best practices, rehabilitation of existing beehives and good governance practices within the community user groups.

Under the conservation education programme, new conservation schools’ curricula and teacher’s guides (primary and secondary) are being developed. In December 2018, a stakeholder workshop brought together county and education officials and representatives of conservation agencies to validate the 2018 schools’ survey report and endorse the 2019 work plan.

An outreach officer, Thomas Mutai, has been recruited by Rhino Ark to focus on the successful implementation of the schools’ conservation education programme while encouraging conservation awareness among local communities.

Fencing Kakamega Forest

Advance planning for the fencing of Kakamega Forest in Western Province is well underway with a high-level stakeholders’ meeting announced by the Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Forestry last October. The meeting established a High-level Policy Committee, a National Steering Committee and a County-level Technical Committee. Rhino Ark has been invited to be a member of each of these committees. Financial Partners currently include the County Government of Kakamega and Vihiga, Rhino Ark and KWS. Following the finalization of the concept proposal, Rhino Ark and KWS have developed terms of reference for an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment Study. It is hoped that the licence to construct the fence will be issued in June.

The only equatorial rainforest found in Kenya, the Kakamega Forest encloses a total area of approximately 25,000 hectares of forest and gazetted forest and national reserves. The eventual electrified fence will be 117 kilometres in length.

Rhino Charge

The climate footprint of the 2018 Rhino Charge has been estimated at 299 tonnes of CO2e. This is lower than the footprint of the 2017 Rhino Charge (486 tonnes of CO2e), due largely to the proximity of the venue. The climate footprint takes into consideration, travel to venue, international air travel, travel at venue, competing cars, aircraft, firewood, generators and refuse incineration. Rhino Ark has purchased offsets from a REDD+ project in the Chyullu Hills. This is part of the commitment made by Rhino Ark to mitigate its climate footprint, in particular from the Rhino Charge.

Certificate of CO2e offset purchased by Rhino Ark to mitigate the climate footprint of the Rhino Charge.

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