The Aberdares

One of Kenya's Great Natural Resources

One in three Kenyan's livlihood is dependent upon the rainfall, rivers, forest and wildlife of the Avberdares - the nations largest mountain range.

Five out of Kenya's seven largest rivers flow north, west, east and south, providing water to millions of farmers ands seven of Kenya's twelve major cities and towns.

The people of the nation's capital, Nairobi - over 2 million - are entirely dependent on water from the Aberdares.

Over 30% of the nation's tea production and 70% of its coffee is grong on its foothills and high slopes.

Over one million farmers depend upon its rich soils and rainfall.

It is the largest indigenous forest in East Africa

Its wildlife is profuse, It is the home of several thousand elephanbt, vast numbers of buffalo, forest antelope, leopard, including the illusive giant forest hog, bongho and over 270 species of birds.

It is one of the surviving strongholds of the Black Rhino. It was for the sake fo the rhino that the Aberdare game fence was started by the Rhino Ark in 1988.

The Aberdare National Park withing the 767 square kilometers of the Aberdare Conservation Area is one of Kenya's prime national parks. It is the place where Queen Elizabeth stayed on the night she became monarch. Two world renowned game lodges - Treetops and The Ark enable thousands annually to see rhino and hosts of other wild animals in this natural habitat and at very close quarters.

The Fencing Development and Management Plan

How it all began..

In 1988 at a time when Kenya's rhino was severly under threat from rampant poaching for its highly valued rhino horn, Rhino Ark was formed. I'ts 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 farms - destroying crops, creating fear and loss of both revenue and on occasions - lives too. This situation fuelled an already volatile community who saw no value in protecting either the wildlife or the forest habitat.

Rhion Ark's formation was aimed specifically to assist the Kenya Wildlife Service to finacnce the fence project first to protect the Salient area in which the game lodges and mobilej safari camps operate, and then to embark on the even mored ambitioous task of encircling the entire Aberdare Conservation Area with a game fproof fence - strong enough to resist elephant pressure, powered with electyrificatiohn to keep wildlife inside the fence and to curb illegal logt extraction, snaring and poaching of wildlife especially rhino.

Even more importantly the fence has brought harmony between the wildlife inside the fence with the farmers who life outside it. The farmers can sleep easily at night without fear of crop descrution and entry into their land by dangerous game.

What has been achieved..

Since 1988 Rhino Ark has raised over Ksh 100 million (US$ 1.3m) The money has been contributed almost entirely from thousands of individuals - mainly Kenyans and also tourists and visitors - who see the value of the scheme. Fund raising began in a small way, and has continued to escalate every year. The prime fund raiser has been the now famous off road annual Rhino Charge. A restricted num ber of entries totalling 55 four wheel drives tackle impossible terrain to complete the shortest destance between twelve guard posts by traveling in as straight a line as is feasible. To enter the event teams from Kenya and eas have to raise as much money as they can nsoship of each vehicle entered and with a minimum amount to gain entry. Every year the waiting list for entry increases.

Other fund raising initiatives

Rhino Ark runs a number of other fund raising events including the more recently launched Hog Charge a childrens mountain bike event similar to the Rhino Charge.
In the United Kingdom Rhino Ark, the Kenya Charity is affilliated to Rhino Ark UK which runs events of its own for the Aberdare Fence.

Donor Funds

Rhino Ark is the vehicle to manage funds from biodiversity donor agencies to assist with the fence project which will, once complete, protect for posterity on of Africa's greatest conservation regions with its abundant wildlife, indigenous forest and mountain upland; and upon whose rainfall and river outflow so many people are dependent. 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.

How much fencing has to be built?

By mid 2002, sufficient funds will have been raised to have completed four sections each forty kms in length totaling 160kms - just over half the full distance and stretching along the entire Eastern side of the Aberdare range from Nyahururu in the North to Chinga in Othaya district at the southern end of the range. This is already the longest conservation fence in the East African region.

What is the plan for the Western side - an equal distance and running along the edge of the Great Rift Valley?

A further 156 Kms needs to be fenced to encircle the Aberdares on its west and southern boundaries. The aim is to complete this as quickly as the funds can be raised. Rhino Ark has set a target of completion by 2005.

How is the fence maintained?

Funds are needed to maintain a fence of this length and importance. It requires as a priority:-

How much money is needed to complete the fence?

In the period 2002 to 2005 Rhino Ark requires Ksh 200 milllion (US$ 2.5 million) to complete the fence. Rhino Ark's plan includes the establishment of an investment trust to run the management process in perpetuity. The future fence management fund requires a further Ksh 200 million (US$ 2.5 million) to keep the fence in good order permanently.
Total requirement Ksh 400 million (US$ 5 million)

Has an environmental assesement beenn done on the value of the fence?

In 1999 Zoo Atlanta, Kenya Wildlife Service and the Kenya Forest Department led by Dr Thomas Butynski completed a study and plan for the final fencing line for unfinished areas.
It says: "As a method of discouraging conflict between wildlife and humans, and specially the damage to crops caused by larger mammals, the fence has proved to be a very effective tool"..
"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 final word - Fence border farmer Peter Ruhiu in an interview with the BBC was asked, 'Has your life changed since the fence was erected?' - 'A great change, for now we do not get animals wandering in and destroying our crops and cattle.'