The demand for rhino horn (used in traditional Chinese medicines and ornamental Middle Eastern dagger handles) creates a situation where intensive security must be employed to protect the wild rhino population. Funds donated by Australia Zoo Wildlife Warriors currently go towards direct protection and security operations of Ol Pejeta Conservancy (OPC).
A former livestock ranch at the base of Mount Kenya was transformed into a thriving home for some of east Africa's most impressive wildlife when Flora & Fauna International (FFI) bought the beautiful and vast area covering 90,000 acres in 2004. In order to enable local people to conserve their own wildlife, the property was later transferred to OPC, a Kenyan non-profit entity. Continued financial and technical support from both FFI and Australia Zoo Wildlife Warriors means the property is now managed for the good of the natural environment and the many communities who live nearby.
An integral part of the Laikipia-Samburu ecosystem, Ol Pejeta carries one of the highest wildlife densities in Kenya. Among its most famous residents are highly endangered black rhinos, and has the capacity to hold over 120. The current population of 84 rhinos was generated from an established founding population of 22, resulting in a growth rate almost double the national goal of 5%.
OPC is now the largest black rhino sanctuary in east Africa, and as a "breeding bank" will soon provide a continuous supply of surplus rhinos to other sanctuaries and protection zones in accordance with Kenya's new national rhino strategy. The conservancy is also home to a number of other endangered species, including the locally threatened Jackson's hartebeest and Grevy's zebra.
- Effective wildlife management programs
- Reducing conflict between wildlife and local communities through mitigation methods including tracker dogs, light surveillance planes, armed anti-poaching patrols, community networks and electric security fences.
- Monitoring of all rhinos through individual radio transmitters in horns
- Active research program to determine the best ways to maintain the diversity of species and habitats
- Providing development support for the 48,000 people living adjacent to the conservancy (has already dispersed over US$1 million)
A 2007 survery of surrounding communities showed that 81% of households benefited from OPC in at least one way, including improved security, access to better health care, support for education, improved access to water, and increased sustainable livelihood and employment opportunity.
OPC also operates an integrated livestock operation that allows the conservancy to cover many of its own financial needs, with all profit from the sale of livestock invested back into both wildlife conservation and community support. Historically wildlife and livestock have always been in competition, however OPC has developed a holistic strategy with ground-breaking techniques that allow livestock to be kept on a commercial scale.