Working at a landscape level, the Ol Pejeta Conservancy aims to secure habitat for the purposes of wildlife conservation. In particular Ol Pejeta works to conserve the highly endangered black rhino and is now the Largest Black Rhino Sanctuary in East Africa. As an integral part of the Laikipia/Samburu ecosystem, Ol Pejeta is home to the “Big Five” and carries one of the highest wildlife densities in Kenya.
Largest Black Rhino Sanctuary
The Ol Pejeta conservancy is home to 86 black rhinos after the single largest rhino translocation ever undertaken in East Africa on February 3, 2007. The translocation was a combined effort between the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and Lewa Wildlife Conservancy. In a period of 2 ½ weeks, 27 more black rhinos were successfully released into the enlarged 75,000 acres of the Ol Pejeta Conservancy. The black rhinos were moved from adjacent Solio Rhino Sanctuary – which held a surplus of 30 rhinos.
This crucial translocation has helped ensure that maximum breeding rates are achieved and adequate food resources maintained. During the translocation, the experienced team equipped each rhino with a transmitter, placed in the horn. Since the release of the animals, these transmitters have allowed complete monitoring of the animals, ensuring their well-being and safety.
Conservation of endangered species in their natural habitat represents a major part of Ol Pejeta’s mission. Black rhinos remain critically endangered and efforts to successfully conserve this species and ultimately develop a viable national population will represent a landmark achievement in wildlife conservation. In Kenya the numbers of black rhino dropped from an estimated 20,000 in the 1970s to less than 300 animals in the 1980s. Through various conservation initiatives, the remaining black rhino population has been protected from intense poaching and the current population in Kenya is estimated at 539. One major challenge to coping with the gradual but steady increase in rhino numbers will be the limited availability of areas with suitable habitat and adequate security, the expansion of the Ol Pejeta Conservancy will help in this regard by providing a further 75,000 acres of prime black rhino habitat.
Working closely with Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS), the Ol Pejeta Conservancy has in the past 10 years seen the Conservancy’s black rhino population grow by an annual average of 8%. This has brought our total number of black rhino to 86, making Ol Pejeta the Largest Black Rhino Sanctuary in East Africa.
Given the ever-increasing demand for rhino horn, the protection of our rhinos necessitates an elaborate security system to prevent poaching. Our “rhino patrols” aim to sight each individual rhino at least once every 3 days. If an individual is not seen within the designated sighting interval extra resources, including aircraft surveillance, are allocated to its known home range until it is found. Additionally many of our rhinos are fitted with horn transmitters that allow for radio tracking.
The Ol Pejeta Conservancy is now also home to a founder population of 10 southern white rhinos and 4 northern white rhinos in a separate sanctuary. It is our intention to introduce more white rhino into this population over the next few years in order to develop a significant breeding herd.
The African elephant population on the Ol Pejeta Conservancy varies dependent upon seasonal migration patterns. The Conservancy incorporates corridors within its northern boundary fence to ensure wildlife connectivity to the greater Laikipia/Samburu ecosystem. These corridors allow free movement of all species on the Conservancy – except for rhinos – and are used heavily by elephant.
We estimate a total of 300 elephants on the Conservancy at any one time. Monitoring is maintained for known individuals that have in the past created problems by breaking though our periphery fences in search of maize and other crops on neighboring small scale farms. To contain this problem Ol Pejeta has developed a number of innovative fence modifications. We have also shown that shortening the tusks on known “fence- breakers” reduces the rate of fence breakage very significantly.
Predator populations on the Ol Pejeta Conservancy are significant with at least 40 lion, 20 cheetah, 30 leopard and 60 spotted hyena. There are also chances of seeing some of the smaller predators including jackal, caracal and bat-eared fox. Some of the lions on the Conservancy are collared as a means to monitor their movements.
With prior arrangement this permits guests to the Conservancy to accompany our patrols in search of lions using radio tracking equipment. Otherwise night game drives offer a good chance of seeing these mainly nocturnal species.