Largest Black Rhino Sanctuary

  • black rhino on Ol Pejeta Conservancy
  • black rhino on Ol Pejeta Conservancy

The Ol Pejeta Conservancy is the Largest Black Rhino Sanctuary in East Africa and home to 100 black rhinos (Diceros bicornis michaeli) after the single largest rhino translocation ever undertaken in East Africa on February 3, 2007. The translocation was a combined effort between Ol Pejeta Conservancy, the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and Lewa Wildlife Conservancy.

In a period of 2 ½ weeks, 27 more black rhinos were successfully released into the enlarged 75,000 acres of the Ol Pejeta Conservancy. The black rhinos were moved from adjacent Solio Rhino Sanctuary – which held a surplus of 30 rhinos. This crucial translocation has helped ensure that maximum breeding rates are achieved and adequate food resources maintained. During the translocation, the experienced team equipped each rhino with a transmitter, placed in the horn. Since the release of the animals, these transmitters have allowed complete monitoring of the animals, ensuring their well-being and safety.

  • black rhino on Ol Pejeta Conservancy
  • black rhino on Ol Pejeta Conservancy
  • black rhinos on Ol Pejeta Conservancy

The population of black rhino in Africa plummeted from an estimated 65,000 to around 10,000 in the early 1980s. By 2001, the total African population was estimated at 3,100.

In Kenya alone, the population dropped from 20,000 to less than 300 due to illegal killing for rhino horn. This represents a loss of 4.5 rhinos a day for 10 years. At present, there are an estimated 620 black rhino in Kenya, and 100 of them live on the Ol Pejeta Conservancy as our flagship species. Kenya is the stronghold of the last remaining population of eastern sub-species (Diceros bicornis michaeli), holding 88% of the world’s remaining population. In response to the drastic reduction in rhino numbers through poaching, Kenya decided to set up specially protected and fenced sanctuaries for rhino conservation. The creation of these sanctuaries was designed to maximize breeding potential, using surplus animals to re-stock any new areas. Ol Pejeta is one such sanctuary.


As one of the worlds most endangered species, the care and protection of our black rhino is one of the largest operations the Ol Pejeta security team has to coordinate. The threat of poaching remains real and, sadly, an ever-increasing danger.


The Ol Pejeta carrying capacity for black rhinos is estimated at 120, although this is subject to much debate and will ultimately depend upon ongoing and regular assessments of forage condition across the entire land area. When working with endangered species it is essential to ensure that numbers of any given population are held at some point below their “ecological carrying capacity”. Beyond this point breeding performance tends to deteriorate leading to reduced population growth, clearly - clearly not ideal when one is trying to maximize numbers as quickly as possible.

To that end, in keeping with the National Black Rhino Management Strategy as developed by the Kenya Wildlife Service, Ol Pejeta is already seeking new areas in the immediate neighbourhod into which an expanding black rhino population could spread. We have high hopes that a new 20,000 acre conservation area recently set aside by the Agricultural Development Corporation (a government parastatal) on Mutara Ranch on Ol Pejeta’s northern boundary might provide an ideal opportunity in this regard.

black rhinos on Ol Pejeta Conservancy
Photo credits: Felix Paton, Brian Haworth, Justine Cordingley (x2), Teeku Patel /