The rhino wars of central Kenya
Run by the Carr-Hartleys today – a Kenyan family that has been involved in the East African wildlife scene for three generations – Solio now has 71 black rhinos and 150 white rhinos, the highest density in East Africa. Indeed, the park’s management has trans-located 100 black and 60 white rhinoceros to other parts of Africa, including six to Uganda and three to Malawi.
Naturally, success breeds its own problems. The increase in the number of animals on the reserve has led to the rhinos’ main food source – the leaves from the acacia-native whistling thorn – being almost eaten out. And Kenya’s farmlands are edging ever closer to the park’s boundaries as farmers seek new pastures for their cattle to graze on. To combat this, the reserve is trying to raise awareness and necessary funds by encouraging tourists to visit. It is completely safe – poachers only come after nightfall – and Solio is now home to a dedicated luxury lodge with six rooms, while game drives are readily available to see the park’s most famous residents up close.
“The next year or two will see big developments here,” Patton said. “Tourist revenue should be increased; there are rhinos to be sold or trans-located; and the reserve is to be extended by a further 15sqkm.”
Plans are also afoot, according to Patton, to install an expensive high-tech electric perimeter fence with an intruder alarm. “Although there are many financial and political problems to overcome – not least in the misunderstandings about rhino habitat and the practical uses of rhino horn – it really is a privilege to work at the vanguard of rhino conservation in Kenya.”