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Ruma National Park launched as a rhino sanctuary

Date Published: 08 Dec, 2011
Ruma National Park launched as a rhino sanctuary

A black rhino is re-introduced in the Ruma National Park.

Ruma National Park in Nyanza has been officially launched as a rhino sanctuary. A male black rhino named Russelas from Mugie Rhino Sanctuary in Laikipia but born in 1998 in Nairobi National Park was the first to be re-introduced and followed by Betty, a sub-adult female born in Mugie 3.9 years ago.

Russelas, who was a dominant adult male in Mugie, came out charging while Betty was calm and started eating the moment she stepped onto the Ruma soils.  The rhinos were fitted with latest technology of radio transmitters and microchips for monitoring. This was a historic comeback of rhinos to this area.  With a capacity of hosting 85 black rhinos, the last time rhinos were sighted in the Ruma general area was in mid 1950s, more than half a century ago.  Black rhino numbers reduced from 20,000 in 1960s to less than 300 by mid 1980s in Kenya mainly due to hunting.

However, the population has since increased to slightly over 600 animals following a Presidential Decree of 1985 that declared black rhino a special animal that required special protection combined by hard work and dedication of rhino monitoring staff on State, Community, Private and County Council lands with rhinos. The launch of the rhino sanctuary was presided over by the KWS Board of Trustees chairman, Hon. David Mwiraria, and the Director, Mr Julius Kipng’etich. 

Hon. Mwiraria praised the great conservation efforts, citing the move to introduce rhinos in Ruma National Park as a visionary move of enhancing tourism in the Western Kenya tourism circuit and unlocking tourism potential in the area.

These sentiments were echoed by Mr. Kipng’etich who encouraged tourism sector players to invest in the area, particularly accommodation facilities.  He reiterated the need to aggressively market the national park alongside other tourism potential in the area by, for example, linking it to the famous Thim Lich Ohinga ruins, the famous Luo legend, Gor Mahia, the vicinity of Lake Victoria, The untapped rich Luo culture, the Homa Hills hot springs of Simbi Nyaima crater and the National Park’s proximity to the famous Maasai Mara National Reserve.  

The launch of Ruma National Park as a rhino sanctuary comes at a time when poaching threat to rhinos is high globally for reasons that are mythical with no scientific backing. Mr Kipng’etich assured Kenyans and the world at large that the poaching threat will be fought against by all means and called upon closer collaboration and support of communities living around all the wildlife conservation areas.

Hon Mwiraria announced that phase two of re-introducing rhinos to the National Park, tentatively scheduled for early 2012, will also involve re-introduction of other wildlife species to enrich species diversity and ecological balance in the Park.

The reintroduction of rhinos into Ruma National Park was jointly funded by KWS and WWF-ESARPO.


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