How was Rhino Ark founded?
Rhino Ark was formed in 1988 by the conservationist, Ken Kuhle, when poaching of rhino and elephant in the Aberdares had reached its peak and the bordering farming communities were demoralised by the constant raiding of their land by animals. Its main aim was to build and maintain a protective electric fence to keep wildlife within fence, curb illegal log extraction and poaching of wildlife including the endangered rhino and mountain bongo antelope among others.
Why a fence?
The fence offered a practical and effective solution to the dual challenge of protecting the wildlife and forests from destruction on one hand, and keeping the adjacent farmland safe from wildlife on the other.
In 1999, a comprehensive expert study of the fence by Dr. Thomas Butynski, titled ‘Aberdares National Park and Aberdares Forest Reserves Wildlife Fence Placement Study and Recommendations’, was completed. This study confirmed the necessity of a physical barrier for the Aberdare Conservation Area (ACA) to prevent movement of wildlife out of the ACA therefore reducing human-wildlife conflict. This barrier was also supposed to protect the significantly important habitats, species and overall biodiversity that the ACA offers.
Does the concept of keeping wildlife in and people out run counter to the KWS wildlife management policy?
True, but it has been tailored to the particular circumstances that exist in the Aberdares region where rich forests border highly productive farmland and where wildlife and humans are competing for land. It is not a remedy for all areas.
How is the fence constructed?
The fence rises seven feet above ground and three feet below. It is electrified and wired down to three feet below ground (to deter burrowing wildlife) and the upright posts are hot wired to deter baboons and monkeys from scaling them.
What did it cost to build the fence?
The fence has cost approximately Kshs. 800 million (approx US $10 million) to construct.
The current cost is Kshs 1.5 million (US$20,000) per kilometre.
How has Rhino Ark managed to raise funds for the Aberdare Fencing Project?
Mainly by the annual world unique Rhino Charge where some cars raise as much as Kshs. 9 million shillings and more each year. In addition, over the years, various partners and supporters have provided funds for the project. Donors that have provided significant funds include The European Union's Biodiversity Conservation Programme (BCP), the Safaricom Foundation, Nation Media Group, Eden Wildlife Trust, Kenya Shell/BP, KenGen, Carbacid CO2, AFEW (Giraffe Centre) and AGGREKO, among others
Rhino Ark has raised over 700 million shillings (10 Million US$) since the Aberdare fence project was founded over 20 years ago: Why do so many people give so generously to the project?
There is a ground swell of public opinion amongst Kenyans who believe that their future depends upon keeping Kenya's Aberdare highland forests intact
What is the status of the Aberdare fence project?
There are two distinct phases:
The construction phase of the project was completed on 28 August 2009. It has taken 21 years to build the fence, which is nearly 400 km long.
(2) Long Term Maintenance
The project has now shifted into the long-term maintenance phase, which requires upkeep of the physical fence and the entire supporting infrastructure. There are various elements involved in this including:
- Construction of fence energizer stations, which house the solar equipment that powers the fence and also double up as accommodation for fence scouts. One energizer station covers between 10-20kms of fence, depending on the terrain. 12 stations are to be constructed under the maintenance programme with each costing approximately US$ 75,000
- Clearing of the fence line - the fence scouts patrol the fence daily to clear vegetation overgrowth, fallen trees on the fence line and carry out any repairs as needed.
What has been achieved?
- Direct financial commitment by Government since 2006 through funding for fence materials
- Human/Wildlife conflict, with the attendant risks to people of injury or death from animal attacks eliminated
- General security improved
- 100% offtake of crops
- Improved land values- up to 300%
- Employment- fence scouts recruited from local communities
- Re-plant programmes of indigenous trees inside the fence
- Sustainable projects on farmland outside the fence, including tree nurseries for both indigenous and exotic soft woods
Now that the fence is built, how can you ensure it will continue to be effective?
A team of trained fence attendants, called “Fence Scouts” patrol the fence daily to repair and maintain the fence so that it continues to reduce human/wildlife conflict and protect the forest, thereby receiving the continued backing of the communities who are adjacent to it.
What is the status of the fence maintenance policy?
An Fence Maintenance process has been established and personnel provided to undertake constant maintenance of the fence. However, we do need a policy that is able to withstand the huge anticipated pressures from illegal and greedy elements in the society who eye rhino horn, trees and bush meat for gain.
What is the status of the rhino in the Aberdares?
They are seen regularly at The Ark and Treetops game lodges in the Salient area of the National Park. However, the threat from poaching is real and tougher measures are needed to provide adequate security.
What can Kenyans do to keep the Aberdares safe for future generations?
Support the Rhino Ark initiative. Details of all our new 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. Visitors to our offices, in Kenya, UK and USA are always welcome.
Can such an initiative hope to win when pitted against forces that condone forest excision for political expediency and personal greed?
Yes, because the voices raised against illegal forest off-take and land grabbing are not only growing in numbers but also impacting strongly upon public opinion.
Now that the construction of the Aberdare Fence is complete, what is your next project?
Although the construction phase of the Aberdare Fence Project is complete, there is still much to be done to secure the long term sustainable management of the fence. Rhino Ark is working towards the establishment of a Trust and Endowment Fund for the ecosystem, and it is envisaged that the Trust will sustainably manage the fence. Its membership shall comprise the key stakeholders from Government, local communities and including Rhino Ark. The income accruing from the endowment fund shall be used to perpetually manage the fence and support the prudent management of the Aberdare ecosystem.
We shall always remain involved in and committed to conservation of the Aberdare Ecosystem, and will continue to support its prudent management and promote conservation compatible activities in the surrounding communities. The Aberdare Fence Project is a blueprint for effective mountain forest ecosystem conservation.
In December 2010, Rhino Ark announced its public commitment to supporting the conservation of Kenya’s water towers, starting with Mt. Kenya and Mau Eburu. The fencing of these two critical mountain ecosystems are core projects for Rhino Ark going forward.
(Click to download maps)