The East African Standard (Nairobi)
May 18, 2002
A unique sporting event initiated by conservationists to assist
Kenya Wildlife Service resolve wildlife-humans conflict 13 years
ago has brought smiles on the faces of people living near the Aberdare
The project was started in 1988 at a time when Kenya's rhino was
severely under threat from rampant poaching for its highly valued
Its aim was to build a fence along sections of the Aberdare National
Park in its eastern Salient where rhino were being mercilessly poached.
The Salient bordered directly onto farming land.
"Not only could poachers have easy access, but game was able
to maraud at night into the park border hunts destroying crops,
creating fear and loss of both revenue and, on occasions, lives
too," Colin Church, chairman of Rhino Ark management committee,
said in an interview.
"The situation fuelled an already volatile community who saw
no value in protecting either the wildlife or the forest habitat,"
Church said. The Aberdare's provide the biggest water catchment
area for the 2 million residents of Kenya's capital city of Nairobi.
Over one million farmers living on its lower slopes depend on its
rich soils and rainfall. Over 30 per cent of the nation's tea production
and 70 per cent of its coffee is grown on its foothills and high
slopes. It is home to several thousand elephants, vast numbers of
buffalo, forest antelope, leopard, including die illusive giant
forest hog, bongo and over 270 species of birds.
The Aberdare is one of the surviving strongholds of the Black Rhino,
for which the Rhino Ark was set up in 1988. The Aberdare National
Park within 1643 sq. km. of the Aberdare Conservation Area is one
of Kenya's prime national parks. It is the place where Britain's
Queen Elizabeth stayed on the night she became a monarch.
The Rhino Charge, the only sport of its kind in the world, was
started by Rhino Ask, a project formed to specifically assist KWS
to finance a 320-km fence to encircle the entire Aberdare Conservation
Area with a game proof fence, strong enough to resist elephant pressure,
powered with electrification to keep wildlife inside the fence and
to curb illegal log extraction, snaring and poaching of wildlife.
This year's Rhino Charge is due June I in the Narok area.
Rhino Ark is the vehicle to manage funds from biodiversity donor
agencies to assist with the fence project.
"Once complete, it will protect for posterity one of Africa's
greatest conservation regions with its abundant wildlife, indigenous
forest and mountain upland. The project is a pioneer in the concept
that both humans and wildlife can live in harmony from shared natural
resources - brought together by a common fence boundary," Church
Rhino Charge is the main fund raiser of the project, having so
far raised $1.5 million (Sh120 million). By October this year, the
fence will have covered 160-km, which is half the entire fencing
project, stretching along the entire Eastern side of the Aberdare
range from Nyahururu in the North to Chinga in Othaya division at
the southern end of the range.
This is already the longest conservation fence in the east African
"The fence has brought harmony between the wildlife inside
the fence with farmers who live outside it. The farmers can sleep
peacefully at night without fear of crop destruction and entry into
their land by dangerous game,' Church said.
Says Mrs Felicitus Nyambura, a farmer bordering the fence: When
wild animals are on their side, there is no longer a problem. It
will be good when everyone has a fence like the one along my farm.
Just killing animals is no answer. We must not let our forests be
Rhino Charge is an off road annual competition restricted to 55
four-wheel vehicles who tackle impossible terrain to complete the
shortest distance between 12 guard posts by travelling in as straight
a line as feasible.
"We restrict it to 55 vehicles because the number can be effectively
managed and the environmental impact is minimal," Church said.
To enter the event, learns from Kenya and overseas have to raise
as much money as they can for the sponsorship of each vehicle entered
with a minimum of Sh 100,000 to gain entry.
Quite a few have raised over Sh I million and others over Sh 2
Rhino Ark runs a number of other fund raising events including
the more recently launched Hog Charge a children's mountain bike
event similar to the Rhino Charge and the Quattro Charge events.
Rhino Charge UK, a skills and endurance fun event for 4x4 off-road
drivers, was started four years ago to help raise funds for the
According to Church, in the period 2002 to 2005, Rhino Ark will
require Sh 180 million ($ 2.25 million) to complete the fence. Rhino
Aries plan includes the establishment of an investment trust fund
to run the management process in perpetuity. A further Sh200 million
($ 2.5 million) is projected.
"As a method of discouraging conflict between wildlife and
humans, and especially the damage to crops caused by larger mammals,
the fence has proved to be very effective tool," Zoo Atlanta,
KWS and the Kenya Forest Department, led by Dr Thomas Butynski,
who completed a study and plan for the final fencing line for unfinished
areas, wrote in their report.
"If the success of the fencing, where it is in place, is repeated
around the rest of the Aberdare Conservation Area, then it is likely
that this essential natural resource can be preserved for generations
to come," the report said.