Mount Kenya Animal Orphanage
The Mount Kenya Game Ranch was founded in 1967 by the late William (Bill) Holden, Julian McKeand and Don and Iris Hunt.
The two young Americans met up in East Africa for the first time in 1964. They were in Kenya, their country of choice, for no good purpose other than to enjoy themselves. Do a Teddy Roosevelt – go off on wild adventurous safaris in the bush, hunting and fishing, and collecting themselves a bag of the fabled “Big Game” trophies.
They bonded closely over the course of their Safaris into the wildest parts of Kenya. But the thrill of hunting soon began to wane. What they came to realize was that the sheer pleasure and personal reward they received from the African “bush” experience were not from the destruction of wildlife but from feelings of wonder and exhilaration at its very existence in a timeless natural environment.
From that point, they made a pact to do what they could to protect and preserve the animals. They eventually found their perfect site – 1,216 acres of rough marginal rangeland nestling in the foothills of Mount Kenya, surrounding the world-famous Mount Kenya Safari Club. Owners Jim and Betty-Ann Nicholsen were elderly and finally tiring of a hard life of subsistence on a small annual wheat crop and a few sheep they ran on the land. They were ready to sell.
Bill went back to Hollywood to make movies to provide much of the initial investment needed to begin development of the Mount Kenya Game Ranch towards its ultimate objective- the preservation of endangered wildlife and its regeneration, where indicated, through selective breeding programs.
Don and the others stayed on to get the work started and, from the outset, he and Iris spent much time on safari, moving animals out of areas earmarked by the government for resettlement of the poor and landless.
President Jomo Kenyatta himself – the well-loved founding “Father of the Nation” -took an immediate and lasting interest in the project. He often directed Don and his crew to particular areas of human-wildlife conflict, seeking their help in the translocation of vulnerable animals. He took much pleasure in initiating a program to assist in the re-stocking of wildlife parks in other African countries, for which he was later inducted into The International Conservation Hall of Fame.
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