Faces of Africa 07/30/2017 Rhino Charge for Conservation – Part 1

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Rhino Charge is an annual off road Motorsport event held in Kenya. The event is organized in order to raise funds to support the activities of the Rhino Ark Charitable Trust. The Trust is an NGO championing for the conservation and protection of Kenya’s major water towers and the construction of the Aberdare electric fence that is meant to safeguard the wildlife habitats from human encroachment as well as solving the animal-human conflicts.

Rhino Charge competitors converge at the Kalepo Conservancy in Northern Kenya for the 2015 race.
Rhino Charge competitors converge at the Kalepo Conservancy in Northern Kenya for the 2015 race

The event was conceived in 1989 by Ken Kuhle and rally Enthusiasts Rob Combes and Brian Haworth. The Trust responded to the grave crisis facing Kenya’s Black Rhino population in the Aberdare National Park.The Rhinos were under severe threat from rampant poaching for their highly valued horn. Rhino Ark’s initial aim was to build a fence along sections of the Aberdare National Park on its Eastern Salient where rhinos were being mercilessly poached.

“Rhino Charge has been created by Rhino Ark as a fundraising event to make sure that Rhino Ark can continue to implement conservation initiatives in Kenya’s forests,” told Christian Lambrechts – Rhino Ark’s Executive Director.

Rhino Ark founder Ken Kuhle who founded the event in 1989
Rhino Ark founder Ken Kuhle who founded the event in 1989

The Aberdares are vital to Kenya. They provide invaluable services in support of the nation’s economic development, human well-being and long-term environmental stability.

“You ask people out there, ‘where is the water coming from?’ they say ‘from the tap’ but no, there’s more than that. It’s the conservation work that we are doing,” asserts John Kanyali – Team 37 leader.

Every year in June, racers from all over the world converge in Kenya ready to go through a thirteen guard posts scattered over approximately a hundred square kilometers of rough terrain within a ten hour period. “To me it’s just a sport that I enjoy. We want to raise money towards this course,” told Peter Kinyua – Team 23 leader.

The winners do not receive any price money instead they race against time to raise funds for the Rhino Ark. “Every year we are getting more than the previous one. Last year (2014) we raised a hundred and two million shillings. If the growth continues, we should expect a hundred and ten million shillings this year (2015),” explained Christian Lambrechts – Rhino Ark’s Executive Director.

A trophy of a rhino and race car.
A trophy of a rhino and race car

Participants like Peter and John are local Kenyans embracing the conservation work done by Rhino Ark. This year (2015) they have prepared themselves to partake in the arduous competition. They have to prepare their vehicles for the terrain and as well as getting sponsorship for the event.

“We have actually spent quite a bit on it. We’ve changed the whole sterling system to a hydraulic sterling. This is the final weekend of testing before we go out next week,” asserts Peter Kinyua. “I’m married to the team leader and the owner of the car, Peter. My role is chief fundraiser. I make sure that the team has collected enough money because ultimately it’s about the money,” told Sophie Kinyua – team 23 chief fundraiser.

With all the funds raising efforts exerted towards the conservation initiative, in 2008 with over ten million dollars raised, the Aberdare forest electric fence had been completed covering over four hundred kilometers and making it the largest fenced forest area conserved in the world. But it did not end there more forests in Mount Kenya and Mau Eburu region in central Kenya will be fenced and this is why these rally enthusiasts gather every June to raise more money through the Rhino Charge. Both Peter and John are aware that the competition is a tough one but are optimistic that each of them will be the eventual winner.

Peter Kinyua a Kenyan competitor in the Rhino Charge race. Behind him is his team preparing his race car.
Peter Kinyua a Kenyan competitor in the Rhino Charge race. Behind him is his team preparing his race car

“We want to win. I think this year (2015) we have a very good chance. I think we have a very good team and some very strong runners. So there are two things we are looking for, having fun but at the same time we want to raise money towards this course,” told Peter Kinyua – team 23 leader.