Kenya: Association of Private Land Rhino Sanctuaries


Location: primarily in Laikipia County, just north of Mt Kenya and straddling the Equator, but also in the area to the west of the Chyulu Hills

Programme leader: Martin Mulama, Chairman
Programme partner: Kenya Wildlife Service
Rhino species: Black rhino (Diceros bicornis michaeli), Southern white rhino (Ceratotherium simum simum) and Northern white rhino (Ceratotherium simum cottoni)
Activities: Anti-poaching and monitoring, translocations, research
Support: We focus on the Emergency Fund for black rhino operations and on the Intelligence and Informer Network
Funding partners: Chester Zoo, Ian Anderson

A black rhino mother and calf in a private conservancy in the Laikipia District, KenyaCredit: Andrew Gell


The number of black rhinos in Kenya plummeted from about 20,000 in 1970 to fewer than 280 individuals in the 1980s because of indiscriminate poaching. The remaining populations of rhinos were at risk of survival because they were too few and spread out to breed successfully. Therefore, in the early 1990s, the government of Kenya adopted a principle of strict protection of rhinos in order to safeguard the few survivors. Several approaches were employed that included collaboration with the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and the private sector to establish intensively protected and heavily guarded rhino sanctuaries on privately owned land. The Association of Private Land Rhino Sanctuaries (APLRS) was formed in 1988 as a result, mandated by KWS to represent the interest of the private sector involved in the conservation of rhinos on private land.


Currently, the APLRS has seven member sanctuaries, namely:

APLRS’s mandate is to act in an advisory capacity to the KWS Rhino Executive Committee.

Programme managers

Martin Mulama (Chairman), Jamie Gaymer (Treasurer), Geoffrey Chege (Secretary)


Kenya. Laikipia District, just northwest of Mt Kenya and straddling the Equator

Species / population size

Please note that the size of individual populations is confidential. As at December 2010, APLRS hosted approximately 271 black rhinos representing 45% of the Kenya’s stock totalling 597 animals. APLRS areas are also home to 261 Southern white rhinos representing about 72% of Kenya’s stock. In addition, four Northern white rhinos are also held in Ol Pejeta Conservancy.


Laikipia County spans an area of 9,500km sq, and is part of the wider 25,000km sq Ewaso ecosystem. None of this land has formal National Park or Reserve status; it is either under community or individual title instead. Nevertheless, Laikipia County represents one of Kenya’s most important wildlife areas, with the most diversity and highest number of endangered mammals such as the Rothschild giraffe, Jackson’s hartebeest and African wild dog. The large human population is in frequent and direct contact with wildlife but much of this is problematic: the threat of poaching, charcoal-burning, deforestation, human-elephant conflict and livestock predation.

Primary activities

The APLRS’s main roles are to coordinate security (anti-poaching) efforts between the members, and to provide biological management of Laikipia’s rhino population in order to achieve maximum growth and genetic diversity, thus contributing to Kenya’s Conservation and Management Strategy for the Black Rhino in Kenya 2012-6.

All APLRS areas are located in insecure and banditry prone areas where poaching for rhino horn has sky rocketed since 2009. This indiscriminate poaching has been exacerbated by excessive infiltration of ammunition from the neighbouring country of Somalia, and has intensified since the increase in global demand for rhino horn to supply the Traditional Chinese Medicine market, particularly in Vietnam. This has led to significant prices being paid to poachers to obtain the horn illegally. To curb this poaching menace, each private sanctuary (and Kenyan National Parks in general) has deployed additional resources, most notable being employment of more rhino security and monitoring personnel, supply of vital equipment, machinery including vehicles and aircraft, and have also acquired tracker dogs to assist in the follow up of poachers.

Save the Rhino and its donors have supported a number of initiatives covering APLRS member areas, including the Emergency Fund (whereby funds are made available to cover 50% of the costs of treating injuries to black rhinos, whether by infighting or by poaching attempts) and the Intelligence and Informer Network (through which payments are made to informers providing information that leads to arrests and prosecutions).


Individual conservancies carry out their own research programmes, but there are none that we know of that are coordinated by the APLRS.


All APLRS members provide their own training in anti-poaching and rhino monitoring efforts. SRI is exploring obtaining Scene-of-the-Crime training, that would teach APLRS members how to collect, record and document crime-scene evidence so that it may be used in prosecutions, what the Kenyan law says about wildlife crimes, and how to argue in support of tougher sentencing.




APLRS members recruit staff from the local community, thus providing employment. Payments made through the Intelligence and Informer network also benefit individuals.

Monitoring and evaluation

The APLRS provides detailed reports on the use of the Emergency Fund; however, for obvious reasons, reporting on the Intelligence and Informer Network is much less detailed, due to the need to protect sources.

History of SRI’s involvement

Save the Rhino and its donors have supported a number of initiatives covering APLRS member areas, including the Capture and Translocation Facility at Ol Pejeta, the Emergency Fund, and the Intelligence and Informer Network.

SRI first supported the APLRS in 2005-6, through the EAZA Rhino Campaign, when we awarded 15,000 euros into the Intelligence and Informers Network. The funding lasted for some 5-6 years, but then ran out. SRI has donated to the Network since then (another 3,800 euros); while Chester Zoo (through SRI) contributed 8,900 euros, both in December 2011. In addition, Chester Zoo and SRI have both supported the Emergency Fund, with grants of 9,300 euros and 3,400 euros respectively in January 2011. SRI staff have visited several of the APLRS members over the years: Borana Conservancy, Lewa Wildlife Conservancy and Ol Pejeta Conservancy in the Laikipia District, and the Big Life Foundation in the Chyulu Hills.

Funding needs / budget etc

It’s difficult to predict how much the Intelligence and Informers Network and the Emergency Fund will cost each year, as it depends entirely on circumstances. In 2012-13, the Emergency Fund incurred costs of c. $14,350.

Other funders

The APLRS members themselves cover most of the costs of monitoring and security for the rhinos on their conservancies.

Programme sustainability

Most APLRS members have tourist lodges, through which they generate income for their conservation programmes, as well as carrying out their own fundraising. Cropping (for meat and skins) was stopped in Kenya in 2004, ruling out one former income stream.

Visiting Laikipia

Laikipia County has an extremely large number / variety of accommodation options from basic camping to high-end luxury lodges. Further information can be found at