Solio Ranch, Kenya : In Kenya’s Central Province, there is a privately owned wildlife sanctuary called Solio Ranch or Solio Game Reserve. The ranch is a privately owned, walled protected area dedicated to the preservation of rhinos. The 17,500-acre reserve, located 22 kilometres north of Nyeri Town, is crucial to Kenya’s efforts to preserve and repopulate its black rhino population. The “Big Five,” which also include the buffalo, zebra, giraffe, and plains game including eland, oryx, impala, waterbuck, Thompson’s gazelle, and warthog, are a major attraction for tourists. The rhino is one of the “Big-Five.” Kenya holds 635 black rhinos and 353 white rhinos in different conservation areas by the end of 2009.
The History of Solio Ranch
The owner of the Solio cattle ranch, Courtland Parfet, established the world’s first private rhino sanctuary, Solio Game Reserve, in 1970. Since that time, breeding efforts have been so successful that rhino from Solio have populated game reserves throughout Africa.
The global population of African black rhinoceros decreased from approximately 65,000 in 1970 to an estimated 3,725 in 2003. According to estimates, Kenya’s population fell from 18,000 to 1500 in 1980 and 400 in 1990. The population decreased from 28% to just 12% of the world’s population, expressed in percentage terms. Poaching in all regions during the 1970s and the early 1980s—both inside and outside of national parks and reserves was the primary cause of this abrupt fall because there were few restrictions and minimal enforcement. One result of the widespread killing was the dispersal of small residual populations sometimes just one person across the nation with no chance of long-term survival, frequently posing a threat to surrounding human settlements that were still facing risk from poaching.
The owner of the Solio cattle ranch, which is situated on the Laikipia plateau in central Kenya, Mr. Courtland Parfet, was solicited for assistance by Kenya’s Wildlife and Conservation Management Department. Since the ranch was dedicated to conservation, a 13,500-acre section of it had already been cordoned off to safeguard local species and let them thrive in the wild without human intervention or danger. There were plenty of buffalo, zebras, gazelles, and leopards in the Solio Game Reserve, but no rhinos. Today’s Kenya Wildlife Service which was earlier known as the Wildlife and Conservation Management Department, asked Solio to house a few remaining black rhinos until a permanent home could be found for them. In 1970, the nation’s first rhino sanctuary was formed after the first five animals were relocated from Kiboko in the southeast of Kenya. The agency continued to bring in more rhinos over the following ten years since there were no other secure spaces available. By 1980, 23 founders had been brought into the Solio Game Reserve from nine different regions.
The reserve had to be expanded to 17,000 acres in 1991 because this new group of rhinos thrived in their great habitat and were safely kept from view. While this was going on, Solio became the primary founder source for many populations because national parks and private ranches in Kenya had to be made secure enough to accept rhinos. By 1992, there were 66 black rhinos in the reserve, following the relocation of about 30 animals to assist establish nucleus populations in other new reserves, including as Ol Jogi, Sweetwaters Game Reserve, Lewa Downs Conservancy, and Nakuru National Park. By the end of 2005, 67 rhinos had been relocated to new locations as the species continued to flourish. But at the beginning of 2000, the reserve turned into a top target for professional poachers, and over the course of five years, nine black rhinos were either shot or caught in snares.
Rhino conservation efforts in Solio Game Reserve
A new management strategy for Kenya’s black rhino conservation was adopted in March 2003 by the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS). The completion of the stocking of new sanctuaries in both areas was to be accomplished using surplus rhinos from both private land and national parks and reserves. According to the Kenya Wildlife Service, in order to develop and preserve a population of black rhinos of the East African race or subspecies diceros bicornis michaeli in their natural habitats in Kenya, it is urgently necessary to maintain a sustainable and high annual growth rate in population. Law enforcement and biological management were to receive more focus in order to achieve this. The KWS plan had the explicit objective of increasing the number of black rhinos by at least 5% annually, with the goal of reaching a confirmed total of 500 rhinos by 2005, 650 rhinos by 2010, and 1000 rhinos by 2020.
Rhino tracking programme
Records were destroyed by a fire at the ranch in 1990, so estimates were used to determine the number of rhinos in the wildlife reserve. After increased poaching, the number of black rhinos was projected to have fallen to 55 in 2005 from 66 in 1992. Since there is so much vegetation in the park, it is challenging to monitor and track the rhino herds. Individual identification is very challenging and prone to inaccuracy.
A monitoring programme was launched in 2005. The game reserve was divided into sections, and a photo archive of the rhino population was made. Ranchers received training in animal observation and identification utilising a photographic database. The animal’s location and the time of day would be noted.5947 sightings had been reported after the first year of monitoring. They estimated that the park had roughly 87 rhino, including 46 males, 38 females, and 3 calves of uncertain sex based on the methodically collected data. According to data from the first year of monitoring, there were 1.2 rhinos per square kilometre. Additionally, the annual population growth rate fell short of the KWS’s 5% growth target. The Solio Game Reserve was found to be overpopulated, and between 45 and 55 animals would need to be removed.
Using the gathered age and sex profiles, 30 people were chosen. The selection process required to guarantee that after translocation, balanced populations would develop and persist. A total of 30 rhinos were captured throughout the translocation’s 14-day duration in February 2007; one rhino died there with the course being an enlarged heart.
The 600 buffaloes would be relocated from Solio Ranch to the Aberdare National Park and other areas during 2010. One of Kenya’s most important rhino habitats, Solio Ranch, has been negatively impacted by the extended drought, necessitating rapid intervention to prevent the rhinos from suffering the repercussions.
Kenya’s Solio Game Reserve is well known for having an abundance of animals. The reserve is a great place for wildlife lovers and safari visitors because it is home to a wide variety of species. Buffalo, zebra, giraffe, oryx, antelope, Thompson’s gazelle, impala, waterbuck, and warthog are among the numerous animals that call Solio Reserve home. The park is also home to some of the best leopard sightings in the country, along with lion and cheetah.
The Solio Reserve is a great location for bird watching as well. A river that occasionally transforms into an area that resembles a swamp runs through the acacia forest in the centre of the reserve. For birds, this area is a haven. The reserve is home to European rollers, flycatchers, and birds of prey such vultures, eagle owls, Montagu’s Harriers, long-crested eagles, and buzzards in addition to the more than 300 species that are found in the game. Every year, you can also see crowned cranes and the European stork here.