Where is Solio Ranch located? There is a privately owned wildlife refuge called Solio Ranch or Solio Game Reserve in Kenya’s Central Province. 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 ranch is a fenced, privately owned conservation area where rhinos are being safeguarded. Kenya’s efforts to protect and replenish its black rhino population depend on the 17,500-acre reserve, which is situated 22 kilometres north of Nyeri Town. The “Big-Five,” lion, elephant, buffalo, rhino and leopard together with other Kenya wildlife species such as zebra, giraffe, and plains game such as eland, oryx, impala, waterbuck, Thompson’s gazelle, and warthog, are a popular tourist destination for safari tours in Kenya. The rhinoceros is one of the “Big-Five.” By the end of 2009, Kenya had 353 and 635 white and black rhinos living in various conservation areas.

How the ranch was established

In 1970, Courtland Parfet, the proprietor of the Solio cattle ranch, founded the world’s first private rhino refuge, the Solio Game Reserve. Since then, breeding programmes have been so effective that rhinos from Solio now inhabit game reserves all over Africa.

An estimated 3,725 African black rhinoceros were left in the world in 2003, down from a population of over 65,000 in 1970. The population of Kenya decreased from 18,000 to 1500 in 1980 and 400 in 1990, according to estimations. In percentage terms, the population dropped from 28% to merely 12% of the global population. Because there were few limits and scant enforcement, poaching in all regions during the 1970s and early 1980s—both inside and outside of national parks and reserves—was the main reason for this sudden decline. Small residual groups, often just one individual, were dispersed over the country as a result of the mass killing, with no hope of long-term survival. These communities usually posed a threat to nearby human settlements that were still at risk from poaching.

Kenya’s Wildlife and Conservation Management Department asked Mr. Courtland Parfet, the proprietor of the Solio cattle ranch, for help. The ranch is located on the Laikipia plateau in central Kenya. Since the ranch was committed to conservation, a 13,500-acre area of it had already been set aside to protect native animals and allow them to flourish in the natural without interference from humans or danger. The Solio Game Reserve was teeming with buffalo, zebras, gazelles, and leopards, but there were no rhinos to be found. The Wildlife and Conservation Management Department, which is now known as the Kenya Wildlife Service, asked Solio to keep some of the last black rhinos until a suitable permanent home could be found for them. After the first five animals were moved from Kiboko in southeast Kenya, a sanctuary for rhinos was established in 1970. Since no other secure facilities were available, the CIA kept bringing in more rhinos over the ensuing ten years. By 1980, 23 founders from nine different regions had been integrated into the Solio Game Reserve.

In 1991, the reserve had to be increased to 17,000 acres due to the success of the new rhino population, which was safely hidden from view and thrived in its excellent habitat. Due to the need for national parks and private ranches in Kenya to be rendered secure enough to receive rhinos during this time, Solio became the main founder source for many populations. There were 66 black rhinos in the reserve by 1992, following the relocation of roughly 30 animals to help create nucleus populations in other new reserves, including as Ol Jogi, Sweetwater’s Game Reserve, Lewa Downs Conservancy, and Nakuru National Park. The rhino species continued to thrive, and by the end of 2005, 67 rhinos had been moved to new areas. A total of nine black rhinos were either shot or caught in snares over the course of five years after the reserve became a prime target for professional poachers at the beginning of 2000.

Solio Ranch conservation efforts

Where is Solio Ranch located?
Solio Ranch

The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) adopted a new management plan in March 2003 for the protection of black rhinos in Kenya. The surplus rhinos from both private land and national parks and reserves were to be used to finish filling the new sanctuaries in both regions. According to the Kenya Wildlife Service, it is critically important to maintain a high annual growth rate in population in order to produce and retain a population of black rhinos of the East African race or subspecies diceros bicornis michaeli in their natural habitats in Kenya. To do this, a greater emphasis was to be placed on biological management and law enforcement. In order to reach a confirmed total of 500 rhinos by 2005, 650 rhinos by 2010, and 1000 rhinos by 2020, the Kenya wildlife service (KWS)plan had the specific goal of raising the population of black rhinos by at least 5% annually.

Rhino tracking

Estimates were made to assess the number of rhinos in the wildlife reserve after records were destroyed by a fire at the ranch in 1990. The estimated number of black rhinos decreased from 66 in 1992 to 55 in 2005 due to increased poaching. It is difficult to keep an eye on and track the rhino herds because of how much greenery there is in the park. The process of accurately identifying an individual is exceedingly difficult.

In 2005, a programme for monitoring was started. A photo archive of the rhino population was created, and the wildlife reserve was separated into sections. A photographic database was used to instruct ranchers in animal observation and identification. The location of the animal and the time of day would be recorded. After a year of surveillance, 5947 sightings had been reported. Based on the carefully gathered data, they calculated that there were approximately 87 rhino in the park, comprising 46 males, 38 females, and 3 calves of unknown sex. Data from the first year of observation showed that there were 1.2 rhinos per square kilometre. The annual population growth rate was also below the KWS’s 5% growth goal. It was discovered that the Solio Game Reserve was overpopulated, necessitating the removal of 45 to 55 animals.30 participants were selected based on the collected sex and age profiles. The process of selection necessary to ensure that, following transfer, balanced populations would form and endure. During the 14-day relocation in February 2007, 30 rhinos in total were captured; one rhino perished there due to an enlarged heart.

In 2010, the 600 buffaloes from Solio Ranch would be moved to other sites, including Aberdare National Park. The prolonged drought has had a devastating impact on Solio Ranch, one of Kenya’s most significant rhino habitats, needing immediate intervention to save the rhinos the consequences.

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