The poaching of elephant tusks and rhino horns has been a thorn to the tourism sector in Kenya. The menace was intense in the 1980s. In a bid to quell the poaching of wildlife in the Aberdares, Ken Kuhle founded the Rhino Ark in Kenya. His knowledge in engineering and passion for conserving the environment inspired his journey in creating and managing the charitable trust.
The African Rhinos
The four main African countries that provide habitats for rhinos include Kenya, Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa. The black rhino is characterized by a hooked lip and a smaller body compared to the white rhino. Black rhinos often have two horns and browse on bushes. Poachers have always targeted rhino horns for sale in the black market.
Following the threat of extinction of black rhinos in 1995, numerous conservation efforts have seen the black rhino population rise from 2,500 to 5,600. However, only two female white rhinos exist in Africa. They are under strict surveillance in Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya.
Saving the endangered black rhino has had a ripple effect in the tourism sector. More land has been secured to allow for the peaceful grazing of elephants and other endangered animals. It is now possible for tourists to enjoy viewing wildlife in their natural habitat. Moreover, the communities bordering the conservancies benefit from tourism-related activities.
Rhino Ark is a Kenyan-based charitable trust founded by Ken Kuhle in 1988. Its primary mission was to help save the black rhino in the Aberdare Mountain Range. The Aberdare National Park is renowned for its diverse ecosystem including the black rhino. The black rhino is an endangered species in the mountain range.
In a bid to counter poaching in the montane forest, the Rhino Ark erected an electric fence around the park. The move not only targeted the rhinos but also bongo antelopes and elephants. The Eastern salient specifically experiences extreme human-wildlife with animals invading farmland. The forest edge inhabitants would consequently retaliate by the random killing of wildlife.
In collaboration with the Kenya Wildlife Service, Rhino Ark has fenced the Aberdare Conservation Area with electric fence. This move was keen on reducing cases of illegal tree logging and and wildlife poaching. The construction that began in 1989 was finished in 2009 and launched in March 2010 by H.E Mwai Kibaki.
Rhino Ark’s Major Achievements
Through the Trust’s efforts, indigenous forests and wild animals are preserved. The conservation areas have been a pride to the local community. Consequently, the Trust has initiated sustainable management programmes to help the community benefit from the proceeds of ecotourism in the conservation areas.
By seeking funds from local and foreign sponsors, Rhino Ark has mobilized a strong financial muscle to assist in the ecosystem’s operations. Rhino Ark has always worked in tandem with the Government of Kenya through the Kenya Forest Service and the Kenya Wildlife Service. The organization also works with the Kenya Forest Working Group, the Green Belt Movement, Worldwide Fund for Nature and the United Nations.
One of the notable Rhino Ark’s projects is the Aberdare fence project which was started in 1989 and launched in march 2010 by H.E Mwai Kibaki. The project was evaluated by the Environmental, Social and Economic Assessment of the Fencing of the Aberdare Conservation Area. The success of conserving the Aberdare ecosystem earned Rhino Ark a special award in 2009.
December 2010 marked the expansion of Rhino Ark’s activities in conserving the mountain ecosystems in Kenya. To succeed in its mission, the Trust took up a partnership with the private sector and local communities. The public is instrumental in implementing the conservation policies.
Rhino Ark has assisted in the conservation of the Eburu Forest Reserve on Mount Eburu. The reserve is rich in indigenous forests, the rainforest on Mount Eburu spans an area of 8,715 hectares. The fence is 43.3 kilometers long and was launched in November 2014.
The Mount Kenya project was launched in September 2012 and comprises of an electric fence that is 450 kilometers long. The fence’s main role is to curb human-wildlife on the country’s highest mountain.
Rhino Ark has been globally acclaimed for effectively managing electric fences around mountain forests. The organization’s management system is being replicated in areas such as the Ol Pejeta Conservancy.
Awards won by Rhino Ark
Rhino Ark has been honored by several awards to appreciate its input in fostering peaceful co-existence between forest ecosystems and the neighboring communities. The efforts recognized include the formation of active outreach programmes to develop tree nurseries for the forest-edge communities.
The organization was appraised for its relentless efforts in conserving the country’s water catchment areas. Preserving the Aberdare water tower is a worthwhile venture as it is a critical water source for Kenya’s major rivers. Other significant water towers in Kenya include Mount Kenya, Mount Elgon, the Mau complex and Cherangany Hills.
The Rhino Charge
In 1989, the Rhino Charge event was initiated by Ken Kuhle, Brian Haworth and Rob Combes. The Rhino Charge is a Kenyan event held every year. It involves off-road motor-sport competition to raise funds for Rhino Ark’s conservation projects. The Rhino Charge Event is also done in the United Kingdom at East Sussex’s Pippingford Park.
Global conservation of the black rhino
The worldwide commitment to preserving the black rhino species is undoubtedly a noble move. The protection of rainforests also encourages the thriving of the African elephant in wild in addition to The Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. Rhino Ark receives funding from well-wishers to sustain its fencing projects to protect mountain ecosystems.