Calendar Cover 2021: Southern White Rhino at the Solio Ranch

Actually the cover picture has a sad background. It shows the Southern white rhino, a subspecies, which originally did not exist in Kenya. Thus, it is an invasive species but in this case it was intentionally imported. The picture was taken at the Solio Ranch – the place that imported Southern white rhinos to Kenya in 1980.


Why was it done? Kenya originally is home to the East African black rhino and the Northern white rhino. Black and white rhinos do not have a common territory – the version with the wide mouth uses it as lawn mower on the ground and eats grass, while the version with the peaky mouth uses it to eat from the bushes. Since 1966 the Solio Ranch was in ownership of a man, whose separated parts of his property – 55 km² – for wildlife as his wife asked him to. Rhinos were not home to this territory although the territory would have fitted both species. This was realized by the Kenyan government in 1970 when they suspected that despite of 20.000 black rhinos in the country they would not be able to protect the species from poachers. So they asked Solio Ranch to place some animals on their ground. During the next decade a total of 27 black rhinos were sent to Solio Ranch – during the same time the number of free living black rhinos in Kenya reduced by more than 90% to only 1.500 animals.


At Solio they recognized that the territory was also good for the white rhino. However, the Northern white rhinos were so few that the fight was basically already lost – in 2008 the last specimen died in the wild, only two females are living in custody today. So Solio imported 16 Southern white rhinos from South Africa in 1980. This story is an amazing success. All Southern white rhinos in Kenya stem from these 16 imports, such as mother and calf on the cover picture.


East African black rhinos are roaming here as well. The rhino offspring was not only sent to Kenyan national parks and other wildlife sanctuaries, but also to other countries like Malawi or Uganda. How fragile everything still is shows that also on Solio 30 rhinos were poached within five years at the beginning of this century – this however marked the beginning for more intense protection and monitoring.

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