Solio Game Reserve

The world’s first private rhino sanctuary, Solio Game Reserve was started in 1970 when Courtland Parfet, the owner of Solio cattle ranch, fenced off a large section of land and dedicated it to conservation; since then, breeding has been so successful that rhino from Solio have stocked game reserves all over Africa. From 1970 through to 2003, the world population of the African black rhinoceros declined from about 65,000 to an estimated 3,725. It was estimated that in Kenya, the population dropped from 18,000 to 1500 in 1980 and only 400 in 1990. In percentage terms the population dropped from 28% to a mere 12% of the world population. This sharp decline was caused by poaching in all areas during the 1970s and the early 1980s, both inside and outside of the national parks and reserves, with few controls and little enforcement.


Kenya’s Wildlife and Conservation Management Department approached Mr Courtland Parfet, owner of the Solio cattle ranch located on the Laikipia plateau in central Kenya, for assistance. With a commitment to conservation, a 13,500 acre area of the ranch had already been fenced off to protect indigenous wildlife and allow them to live their natural life without interference or threat from humans. The Solio Game Reserve was home to many buffalos, zebras, gazelles and leopards but there were no rhinos.


The Wildlife and Conservation Management Department, the forerunner of today’s Kenya Wildlife Service, requested Solio to take in some remnant black rhinos while a permanent home was found for them. The first five individuals were moved in from Kiboko in the south-east of Kenya in 1970 and the country’s first sanctuary for rhinos was established. With no other secure areas available, over the next 10 years the department continued to move in more rhinos. By 1980, 23 founders from nine different areas had been introduced into Solio Game Reserve.


With excellent habitat and securely hidden from view, this new group of rhinos bred and prospered, and the reserve had to be extended to 17,000 acres in 1991. In the meantime other areas in Kenya in national parks and private ranches were made sufficiently secure to take in rhinos, and Solio became the prime founder source for many populations.


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