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 on Langata Road in Nairobi. Rhino Ark has branch offices in the 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, Kenya.
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 high and the adjacent farming communities were challenged by the constant raiding of their land by 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’s initial focus was on fencing, its conservation portfolio has expanded over the years to also include: capacity building with 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 key priority areas :
- Protection of mountain forests and their diverse wildlife;
- Support to, and engagement of forest-adjacent communities in conservation;
- Re-establishment and/or securing of the connectivity (wildlife corridors) with and between mountain forests; and
- Use of science to assess the impacts of, and review our conservation interventions.
On one hand, electrified game-proof fences offer practical and effective solutions to the dual challenge of protecting wildlife and forests from destruction; 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 Dr Thomas Butynski issued a comprehensive expert study of the Aberdare fence entitled ‘Aberdares National Park and Aberdares Forest Reserves Wildlife Fence Placement Study and Recommendations (Part I, Part II)’. 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 was 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 prevent climbing animals (such as baboons and monkeys) from scaling them. Animal grids are sited where the fences traverse 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 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 operates were largely blocked by densely populated settlements located right up to the forest boundaries. Our fences, therefore, do not block wildlife movement, but address human-wildlife conflict by preventing wildlife from invading the neighbouring farmlands.
In areas where wildlife movement has not been blocked but is causing conflict 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 all necessary consultations, two wildlife fence openings were 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 land use, and its ownership, has been completed and a technical team, including Rhino Ark, has been established and is reviewing the feasibility of securing the corridor.
A corridor to provide for the safe movement of elephants between Mount Kipipiri and the Aberdare Range has been established through forest plantations carried out by Rhino Ark together with its partners Kenya Wildlife Service and Kenya Forest Service.
The nearly 400km-long Aberdare Electric Fence (constructed between 1989 to 2009) has cost approximately KES 800 million (approx. US$ 8 million) , while the 43.3km-long Eburu Electric Fence (constructed between 2013 and 2014 ) has cost approximately KES 130 million. It is estimated that t the 450km Mount Kenya Electric Fence will cost approximately KES 1.4 billion.
In 2015, the fence construction cost sat as KES 2.3 million (approx. US$ 23,000) per kilometre, excluding the costs of supplementary fence infrastructure such as energiser houses and gates.
As a conservation organisation, Rhino Ark is deeply sensitive to minimising any environmental impact that could result from its operations. This extends to the Rhino Charge - Rhino Ark’s main fundraising event to support the conservation of Kenya’s water towers.
The format of the Rhino Charge was developed towards minimising the impact of the competition cars on the environment. In addition, stringent rules have been set to ensure that no refuse is left anywhere across the entire Rhino Charge event location. To promote refuse recycling, a waste sorting station is set up at every venue.
Rhino Ark has raised millions of dollars since the Aberdare Fence Project was initiated in 1989. There is a groundswell of public opinion amongst Kenyans acknowledging that their future depends on keeping Kenya’s mountain forests, also known as water towers, - intact.
This acknowledgement flows from the realisation that the water towers provide critical ecological services to the country in terms of: water storage; river flow regulation; flood mitigation; resupply 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 including the energy, tourism, agriculture, and manufacturing industries.
Our conservation interventions are always undertaken with keen attention to the careful use of the financial and other resources so kindly entrusted to us by our many donors and supporters.
- Support the Rhino Ark initiative. Details of all our fundraising 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 activity; 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. Instead, opt for zero-grazing and purchase permits from the Kenya Forest Service to cut and carry grass for your livestock from the forest reserve.
- Report any illegal activities immediately that you have noticed to Rhino Ark, the nearest Forest Station or National Park gate.
The fence has cost approximately KSh800 million (approx. US$10 million) to construct.
The current cost is KSh1.5 million (US$20,000) per kilometre.
The bulk of funds raised have been generated by the annual, one-of-its-kind, Rhino Charge event, where some teams/cars raise as much as KSh 9 million each year. Our important partners and supporters have also provided significant funds for the project. Donors that have provided significant funds include the European Union’s Biodiversity Conservation Programme (BCP), the Safaricom Foundation, Nation Media Group, Eden Wildlife Trust, Kenya Shell/BP, KenGen, Carbacid CO2, AFEW (Giraffe Centre) and AGGREKO, among others.
There are two distinct phases to the project:
The construction phase of the project was completed on 28 August 2009. It took 21 years to build the fence, which is nearly 400 km in length.
(2) Long Term Maintenance
The project has now shifted into the long-term maintenance phase, which requires upkeep of the physical fence and the entire supporting infrastructure.
There are various elements involved in this including:
- Construction of Fence Energiser Stations, which house the solar equipment that powers the fence and also double-up as accommodation for fence scouts. One energiser station covers 10-20 km of fence, depending on the terrain. 12 stations are to be constructed under the maintenance programme, each costing approximately US$ 75,000.
- Clearing of the fence line – the fence scouts patrol the fence daily to clear vegetation overgrowth, fallen trees etc. They also carry out any repairs as needed.
A team of trained fence attendants, called ‘Fence Scouts’ patrols 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 neighbouring communities.
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 more robust measures are needed to provide adequate security.
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, the UK and USA – are always welcome.
- Direct financial commitment by Government of Kenya since 2006 through funding fence materials
- Addressed and resolved the challenge of human-wildlife conflict and the attendant risks of human injury or fatalities from animal attacks
- General security improved both within and adjacent to the forest
- Improved food security resulting in a potential 100% offtake of crops by farmers , with no further losses caused by wildlife
- Improved land values by up to 300% in forest adjacent farmlands
- Employment : fence scouts recruited from local communities
- Indigenous tree-planting programmes inside the fence
- Sustainable projects on farmland outside the fence, including tree nurseries for both indigenous hardwoods and exotic soft woods
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. In December 2014, Rhino Ark, Kenya Forest Service and Kenya Wildlife Service jointly operationalised the Aberdare Trust as its founding partners. Its membership comprises the three founding partners plus two representatives of the forest-adjacent communities.
The objectives of the Aberdare Trust are to:
- Build, maintain and repair the fence and promote sustainable management of financial and human resources essential to the fence maintenance;
- Protect the fence infrastructure against damage and degradation;
- Maintain and ensure sustenance of the values and protective functions of the fence;
- Generate funds for investment in the maintenance of the fence infrastructure;
- Support conservation awareness initiatives for the forest adjacent communities;
- Support programmes aimed at improving livelihoods of the forest adjacent communities;
- Participate in policy making processes affecting the Aberdare ecosystem; and
- Carry out any other activity, including conservation activities, necessary for or incidental to the fulfilment of the objects of the Trust.
An endowment fund will also be established. The income accruing from the endowment fund shall be used to maintain and manage the fence.
Rhino Ark shall always remain engaged in and committed to, conservation of the Aberdare ecosystem. The Aberdare Fence Project is an example of effective public-private partnership, and it offers a blueprint for mountain forest ecosystem (water tower) conservation.
Mt. Kenya Electric Fence construction started in July 2012 and the wider project was officially launched by Hon. Njeru Githae, Minister for Finance on 7 September the same year. Once completed, it will be approximately 450 kilometres long encircling over 2,700 square kilometres of prime forests and critical water catchments.
By April 2016, 100 kilometres of the fence had been built, spanning the area from Kiringa River in Kirinyaga County to Mutongu River on the border of Meru County. Authorised access points along the fence line are protected by lockable metallic gates. One energiser house has been completed in Castle Forest Station and two more are being procured.
24 fence attendants have been hired to carry out daily maintenance of the completed fence section, and improved supervision and reporting procedures have been put in place.
Eburu Electric Fence construction started in March 2013 and completed on 26 November 2014. The fence, built along the gazetted Eburu Forest Reserve boundary, is 43.3 kilometres long and completely encircles the 8,715.3 hectare indigenous forest. Associated fence infrastructure, comprising three fence energiser houses (that hold the fence electrical power systems, accommodation for fence attendants and maintenance tools and materials stores), and 10 lockable metallic fence gates are also fully completed.
Rhino Ark and partners are now working towards:
- Establishment of the long-term fence maintenance operating processes, manpower skills development and securing of needed financial resources through the proposed Eburu Trust and Endowment Fund;
- Improving wildlife welfare through establishing safe wildlife corridors linking the forest to the wider Eburu ecosystem and providing water solutions for wildlife inside forest areas that lack surface water;
- Raising the profile of the ecosystem by collecting and disseminating information about the ecosystem’s values; and
- Supporting alternative community livelihood initiatives and conservation education outreach activities.
Teams of trained fence attendants patrol the fences daily in the Aberdares (114 attendants) and Eburu (12 attendants). The fence attendants repair and maintain the fences so that they continue to prevent human-wildlife conflict and to protect the forest, thereby providing value to the neighbouring communities and ensuring their continued support.
Number Of Families Protected From Human-Wildlife Conflict
We are committed to doing what is necessary, not only what is considered politically feasible, to preserve rainforests, protect the climate, and uphold human rights.