At the base of Ngulia Hills, this 90-sq-km area is surrounded by a 1m-high electric fence and provides a measure of security for around 80 of the park’s highly endangered black rhinos. There are driving tracks and waterholes within the enclosed area, but the rhinos are mainly nocturnal and the chances of seeing one are slim – black rhinos, apart from being understandably shy and more active at night, are browsers, not grazers, and prefer to pass their time in thick undergrowth.
These archaic creatures are breeding successfully and around 15 have been released elsewhere in Tsavo West National Park.
For all the security, one rhino was poached from inside the sanctuary in April 2014, with two more taken on 31 December 2016 amid reports of budget cuts and diminishing resources to fight poaching. Even so, there are plans to expand the boundaries of the sanctuary to the south.
Ngulia rhino sanctuary is a stronghold and bleeding place for black rhinos in Tsavo and Kenya as a nation, Kenya as a tourist destination and a home of wildlife used to be a habitant to over 8000 black rhino individuals by 1970s but due to human practices like poaching and encroaching on rhino’s habitants.
Ngulia Rhino Sanctuary is a critical black rhino stronghold
Recently at Ngulia, AWF supported the Kenya Wildlife Service in completing upgrades that better secured the sanctuary’s rhinos, keeping out poachers as well as the elephants that compete with rhinos for food. We also funded the conversion of a substandard, diesel-powered water pump to a more efficient solar-powered one.
AWF’s involvement with Ngulia dates to its inception in 1986, when the sanctuary opened at the height of the poaching crisis in Africa. With just three rhinos housed on a 3-kilometer sq. plot, the sanctuary was envisioned as one of several in Kenya that would provide safe breeding grounds for the rapidly declining black rhino population.
Over the last 30 years, the sanctuary has expanded to 90 kilometers sq. and currently hosts close to 100 rhinos. Due to the sanctuary’s small acreage, rhinos are routinely translocated to an Intensive Protection Zone to create more space as the population grows.
“We have not suffered a poaching incident in Ngulia since 2016, and every year, new calves are born,” says Kenneth Kimitei, AWF’s ecologist overseeing anti-poaching, wildlife monitoring, and community conservation projects in the transboundary Kenya/Tanzania Tsavo-Mkomazi ecosystem.
“It has been our joy to see this sanctuary provide the safety and the ecological requirements that rhinos need in order to breed, hence pulling the species back from the brink of extinction,” he adds.
The sanctuary now enjoys an uninterrupted fresh water supply used by both the animals and the dedicated Kenya Wildlife Service rangers who take care of them. In addition, AWF supported the construction of a modern office block to serve as a ranger station and to ease the day-to-day administrative functions at the facility, as well as a residential houses for the officers. Currently, AWF is upgrading the electric fence surrounding the sanctuary to make it even more poacher-proof