RHINO ARK CHARITABLE TRUST is a trust established in Kenya under the provisions of the Trustee Act (Cap 167) and registered under section 10 of the Non-Governmental Organisations Coordination Act, 1990 and, has as its main objective the preservation of Kenya’s mountain forests, also known as water towers, and their rich bio-diversity.
Rhino Ark main offices are located at Kenya Wildlife Service Headquarters Complex along Langata Road in Nairobi. Rhino Ark has branch offices in UK and USA to reach out to our friends overseas. Rhino Ark also has a field office for the Aberdare/Mt. Kenya ecosystems in Nyeri.
Rhino Ark is a non-profit, Kenyan conservation Trust formed in 1988 by the conservationist, Ken Kuhle, to address a massive conservation crisis in Kenya’s Aberdare mountain forests. Rampant poaching of rhino and African elephant in the Aberdare National Park was at an all-time peak and the adjacent farming communities were demoralised by the constant raiding of their land by marauding wildlife.
At that point, Rhino Ark’s main aim was to build and maintain a protective electric fence to contain wildlife within the national park, and curb illegal logging and poaching of wildlife, including the endangered black rhino, and the African elephant.
Rhino Ark’s vision is to ensure that humans are living in harmony with habitat and wildlife.
Rhino Ark’s mission is to assist the Government of Kenya in conserving Kenya’s water towers through the development and transparent implementation of effective, result-oriented programmes that involve and support the adjacent local communities, within a public/private partnership framework.
Although Rhino Ark initial focus was on fencing, its conservation portfolio has expanded over the years to also include: building capacity of partners Kenya Forest Service and Kenya Wildlife Service in fence management, combating wildlife crime and responding to wildfires; supporting community-based ground patrols; ecological monitoring; aerial surveillance; environmental education; promotion of bio-enterprise development; and securing wildlife corridors.
The expansion of Rhino Ark’s portfolio has been undertaken with careful deliberation, guided by our four priority thematic areas: (1) protection of mountain forests and their diverse wildlife; (2) support to, and engagement of forest-adjacent communities in conservation; (3) re-establishment and/or securing of the connectivity (wildlife corridors) with and between mountain forests; and (4) use of science to assess the impacts of, and review our conservation interventions.
Electrified, game-proof fences offer practical and effective solutions to the dual challenge of protecting wildlife and forests from destruction on one hand, and keeping the adjacent highly productive farmland safe from marauding wildlife on the other. They are a cost effective way to safely control wildlife movement when compared to other alternatives, such as not fencing (heavy economic loss from reduced forest adjacent farmland productivity), or using non-electrified fences (which would require much greater physical strength and therefore cost).
In 1999, a comprehensive expert study of the Aberdare fence by Dr. Thomas Butynski, titled Aberdares National Park and Aberdares Forest Reserves Wildlife Fence Placement Study and Recommendations (Part I, Part II), was completed. This study confirmed the necessity of a physical barrier for the Aberdare Conservation Area (ACA) to prevent outward movement of wildlife from the ACA as the way to reduce human-wildlife conflict. The study also confirmed the fence as an effective way to protect important habitats, species and overall biodiversity in the ACA. Electric fences have proven to be effective management tools even though they are not necessarily boundary markers. The fence placement is determined through agreement between the project partners, and its precise alignment may take into consideration factors such as local topography or biodiversity issues.
Rhino Ark built fences are comprehensive electrified fences, in the sense that their design aims to prevent most mammals from invading the neighbouring farmland. The fences stand seven feet above the ground and descend three feet below it. The lower and below-ground sections are made of tight lock mesh wires to deter burrowing wildlife such as porcupine and bushpig, among others. Above ground, the upright fence posts are “hot-wired” to climbing animals (such as baboons and monkeys) from scaling them. Provision of animal grids is made where our fences cut across roads.
For each ecosystem in which we work, fence maintenance procedures and routines have been established and personnel provided to undertake constant maintenance of the fences. Each successive 4 kilometre long fence section is maintained continuously by a fence attendant recruited from the forest-adjacent communities. The maintenance work of the fence attendants is monitored by fence supervisors. The status of the fence is regularly reviewed by a Fence Technical Committee that meets monthly and comprises of the main partners that built the fence.
The overall maintenance and management of the fences is guided by the Handbook of the Management of Electric Fences.
No. It is a psychological barrier. The energizers that power our electric fences send well-controlled strong but short-lived pulses that do not cause bodily harm, but are sufficiently unpleasant as to act as an effective deterrent.
Yes, because the voices raised against illegal forest offtake and land grabbing are not only growing in number and conviction, but also impacting strongly on public opinion.
Long before our fences were constructed, wildlife movement to and from the mountain forests where Rhino Ark works were largely blocked by densely populated settlements established up to the forest boundaries. Our fences, therefore, do not block wildlife movement, but address human-wildlife conflicts by preventing marauding wildlife from invading the neighbouring farmlands.
In areas where wildlife movement has not been blocked but are causing conflicts with settled communities, Rhino Ark is working with partners towards securing safe wildlife corridors. This is the case between Eburu Forest and Lake Naivasha. Rhino Ark has spearheaded the establishment of a platform for stakeholders to engage and agree on practical interventions to secure a corridor linking the forest with private farms whose land use is fully compatible with wildlife conservation and with the formal consent of the landowners. As of October 2015, following necessary consultations, two wildlife fence openings have been created – one along the eastern and the other along the south eastern section of the Eburu Electric Fence; a Joint Patrol Camp has been established to address illegal forest resources extraction and to protect the wildlife moving through the openings; and fences along the corridor are being upgraded.
In Nyeri County, under the leadership of the County Government of Nyeri, Rhino Ark and partners are working towards securing the wildlife corridor between Mt. Kenya and the Aberdare Conservation Area. Two-thirds of the corridor is still active (in use by wildlife) but with incidents of human/wildlife conflict. A scoping study aiming at understanding the location of the corridor and the land use and ownership on the same has been completed, and a technical team, including Rhino Ark, has been constituted and is reviewing the feasibility of securing the corridor.
To provide for the safe movement of elephants between Mount Kipipiri and the Aberdare Range, a corridor has been established through forest plantations by Rhino Ark together with its partners Kenya Wildlife Service and Kenya Forest Service.
The nearly 400 km long completed Aberdare Electric Fence (built from 1989 to 2009) has cost approximately KES 800 million (approx. US$ 8 million) to construct, while The 43.3 km long completed Eburu Electric Fence (built from 2013 to 2014) has cost approximately KES 130 million. It is estimated that the nearly 450 km Mount Kenya Electric Fence will cost approximately KES 1.4 billion.
As of the year 2015, the current fence construction cost is KES 2.3million (approx. US$23,000) per kilometre, excluding the costs of supplementary fence infrastructure such as energizer houses and gates.
As a conservation organization, Rhino Ark is deeply sensitive to minimizing any environmental impact that could derive from its operations. This extends to the Rhino Charge, Rhino Ark’s main fund raising event to support the conservation of Kenya’s water towers.
The format of the Rhino Charge was developed towards minimizing the impact of the competition cars on the environment. In addition, stringent rules have been set to ensure that no refuse is left anywhere in the entire Rhino Charge venue. To promote refuse recycling, a waste Sorting Station is set up at the venue.
Rhino Ark has raised millions of dollars since the Aberdare Fence Project was initiated in 1989. There is a ground swell of public opinion amongst Kenyans who have now acknowledged that their future depends on keeping Kenya’s mountain forests, also known as water towers, intact.
This stems from the realization that the water towers provide critical ecological services to the country, in terms of: water storage; river flow regulation; flood mitigation; recharge of groundwater; reduced soil erosion and river siltation arising from soil erosion; water purification; conservation of biodiversity; and, micro-climate regulation. Through these ecological services, the water towers support key economic sectors in including energy, tourism, agriculture, and manufacturing industries.
Our conservation interventions are undertaken always with due attention to the prudent use of the resources that are so kindly entrusted to us by our many donors and supporters.
- Support the Rhino Ark initiative. Details of all our fund-raising activities are on this website as well as through our bi-annual newsletter ARKive, which is also available for download on this site.
- Do not buy or use any products made of Cedar (Juniperus procera) or Camphor (Ocotea usambarensis), as these products are made from trees extracted illegally from Kenya’s mountain forest ecosystems by criminal elements – Cedar, commonly used for fence posts, and Camphor for use in making furniture. Currently, Cedar is the most targeted indigenous tree species in the three water towers where Rhino Ark operates, namely Mount Kenya, Aberdares and Mau Eburu.
- Do not bring your livestock into the indigenous mountain forests, since livestock browse on young trees, thus impacting negatively on forest regeneration. Opt, instead, for zero-grazing and purchase permits from the Kenya Forest Service to cut and carry grass for your livestock from the forest reserve.
- Immediately report any illegal activities you have noticed to Rhino Ark, the nearest Forest Station or National Park gate.
Rhino Ark directly supports the work of the community-based Bongo Surveillance Programme (BSP) through funding and logistical support of the activities of the BSP team.