On Thursday 2nd November 2017, Rhino Ark UK launched a film entitled “Protecting the mountains Forests of Kenya” at the Stephenson Harwood LLP Offices in London. The well-attended event was organized by the Rhino Ark UK and Stephenson Harwood LLP. The film which captures some of the most beautiful forest areas of Kenya has been produced by the award-winning Camerapix TV.
The forum was attended by Lord Aberdare Patron of the Rhino Ark, Mr. Patrick Orr, Trustee, Rhino Ark UK, Hon. Jeremy Lefroy MP, Chairman of all Party Parliamentary Group on Kenya and UK Trade Envoy to Ethiopia, Mr. Christian Lambrechts the Executive Director Rhino Ark, Mr. Peter Kinyua, Chairman Kenya Forest Service, Ms. Juliet Shears from the Bongo Surveillance Programme and Mr. Kamal Shah, Head of Africa and India Groups, Stephenson Harwood LLP. Kenya’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom H.E. Lazarus Amayo was also in attendance among others.
Established in 1989, Rhino Ark is a Charitable Trust whose work is dedicated to addressing the challenges facing the mountain forest ecosystems and threatened biodiversity areas in Kenya. It works closely with the Kenya Government in partnership with the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) and the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS). It started as an electrified fence around the spur of the Aberdare National Park partly to combat poaching of the black rhino and to protect hard-working farmers at the forest edge from the ravages of wild animals particularly elephants. Today the Fence surrounds the entire Aberdare mountain range with a further fence around Mount Eburu overlooking Lake Naivasha in the Mau Forests Complex. Now the longest fence of all 450 Kilometers is being built to encompass the entire Mount Kenya area. Over 150 metres have been completed to date. The Rhino Ark has been described as Kenya’s most important environmental project.
In his introductory remark, Mr. Patrick Orr welcomed the guests to the event and noted that the film “protecting the Mountain Forest of Kenya” depicted the real Kenya. He emphasized that Rhino Ark works closely with the Kenya Wildlife Service, the Kenya Forest Service and essentially the local communities. He added that Rhino Ark continues its support for the community livelihoods platform. Through the Rhino Ark supported Corridor Committee, a link between the Eburu Self-help Group and the Nuffield Scholars an international group of farmers has been established. He further called for support for the ongoing Rhino Ark international fundraising programme.
Lord Aberdare the Patron of Rhino Ark UK while speaking at the event noted that the organization has been supporting wildlife conservation and environmental protection in Kenya since 1988. He highlighted that as the Rhino Ark increases the size and scope of its operations, it intends to enhance the efficient management of the fences around the Aberdares and Mount Eburu and intensify fence construction on Mount Kenya. Lord Aberdare noted that over a third of the eventual 450 kilometres electrified fence around Mount Kenya had been completed and the Eburu communities and the locals farming on the slopes of Mount Kenya were deriving benefits from the construction of the fence.
The Executive Director of the Rhino Ark, Mr. Christian Lambrechts informed that Kenya’s larger forests are concentrated in the Aberdare Mountains, Mount Kenya, the Mau Highlands, the Cherangani Hills and the Mount Elgon. He added that the lives and livelihoods of most Kenyans depend in some way on these mountain forest ecosystems for social and economic well- being. He underscored that Rhino Ark was founded to respond to the crisis facing Kenya’s Black Rhino population in the Aberdare ecosystem which is under severe threat from rampant poaching for their highly-valued horn. “The electric fence that has been built by Rhino Ark has brought harmony around the area and farmers are now not fearful of losing their lives, crops, and homes” he added. Mr. Lambrechts emphasized that other areas in the Mau Escarpment and the Kakamega Forest were similarly in need of protection.
The High Commissioner in his remarks congratulated the Rhino Ark UK for making such encouraging progress in advocacy on anti-poaching efforts. He expressed his appreciated of the partnership between the government and the private sector in combating poaching of the black rhino and delivering security to the people of the Aberdare mountain range.
Amb. Amayo noted that the Government of Kenya attaches a lot of importance to the conservation and preservation of the country’s wildlife and the natural habitat. He emphasized that tourism in Kenya was largely wildlife-based and generated 12% of the Gross Domestic Product. “Kenya’s long-term development blueprint, the Vision 2030, identifies wildlife-based tourism as one of six key sectors planned to deliver the targeted 10% economic growth rate each year” he stated.
The High Commissioner stressed that Illegal wildlife trade is an international problem which requires global cooperation in the implementation of right policies. He called for concerted efforts in curbing poaching given its profound effect on regional biodiversity and economies.