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The Mount Kenya Game Ranch was founded in 1967 by the late William Holden, Julian McKeand and Don and Iris Hunt.
Goals of the Game Ranch /Conservancy are: To set aside land for the purpose of conserving rare and endangered species in order to establish safe gene pools. (Apart from the Government operated National Parks no such facility existed in East Africa at the time.)
The Ranch land itself was a mixed live stock and wheat farm, with very little or no game on it. The first task was to securely game fence the land of 1200 acres and let it go back to natural Mount Kenya bush and forest. Dams were established and indigenous flora preserved. Some private roads and a private airfield were built as well as staff accommodations, an animal orphanage and other animal holding facilities. Vehicles and farm equipment were purchased, a self contained mobile bush camp and Kenyan capture team was trained and mobilized by the partners.
Back at the ranch an animal orphanage was established and overseen by Don and Iris Hunt. It was the only privately funded facility available to care for injured, orphaned or endangered animals and prepare them for eventual release back into the wild.
In 1970 the founding father of Kenya, President Kenyatta asked the Game Ranch capture unit to assist in capturing wildlife in Kenya for re-stocking programs in Ghana, Nigeria and other African countries.
As poaching increased in Kenya, the Game Ranch capture program was encouraged to save wildlife by capturing in areas where poaching was decimating wildlife.
As more wilderness areas in Kenya came up for settlement the Game Ranch’s capture team was again called in to capture/rescue countless wild animals. For this legal capture licenses were obtained from the Government and paid for.
Some of the rescued animals from these areas were sent to Europe and the United States as well as African countries for breeding programs.
Others were rehabilitated at the Mount Kenya Game Ranch and formed the first breeding stock. Here they began to thrive, protected and safe from poachers and the encroachment of civilization.
Many species were saved. A good example is the mountain bongo which later became extinct on Mount Kenya except for the herd bred at the Game Ranch and the offspring of the animals that had been sent out of the country now increasing dramatically.
In cooperation with the Kenyan Government the Ranch financed and assisted in many Kenyan as well as inter-African game translocation projects.
Following the death of William Holden in 1981 Don and Iris Hunt purchased his shares from his estate and continued to operate the Game Ranch, financing it with their own resources.
In 1984 Stefanie Powers was invited and appointed a Director of the Game Ranch.
In 2004 the Mount Kenya Wildlife Conservancy was formed as a Kenyan non profit Trust established under the laws of Kenya.
The Conservancy now manages all of the Ranch’s wildlife conservation and education programs.
Ongoing breeding programs for release include the shy and elusive suni antelope, the colourful colobus monkeys, patas monkeys, the magnificent and rare mountain bongo antelope and the rare white zebra. A cheetah breeding facility has also been built and efforts there are ongoing.
The list of rehabilitated “orphanage graduates” continues to grow!
These programs are supported by sponsors from Kenya, Europe, Asia, and the United States. The Mount Kenya Wildlife Conservancy’s bongo rehabilitation program has received worldwide attention.
It has focused attention on the need for conservation and resulted in the United Nations citing Mount Kenya as a world heritage site.
All wildlife experts, managers and staff at the Mount Kenya Wildlife Conservancy are Kenyan citizens.
The trustees and Directors of the Conservancy do not receive salaries or wages, allowances or expenses of any kind. They simply donate their services without any benefit whatsoever.
The wilderness breeding areas under the care of the Conservancy are not open to the general public or tourists. They are managed for breeding and rehabilitation purposes.
Last year more than 15,000 visitors came to the Conservancy’s animal orphanage.
More than half of these visitors were Kenyan students hosted free of any charge.
The Mount Kenya Wildlife Conservancy aims to prevent extinction by breeding rare and endangered species for rehabilitation to their ancestral wilderness homes.
Current projects include:
- The mountain bongo rehabilitation to the wild program is now well under way with the first small group of bongo earmarked for a first test release. The entire herd at the Conservancy now number 70 bongo antelope with more births expected.
- Continued breeding of the rare white zebra for re-establishment in their original homes on Mount Kenya and the Leroghi plateau.
- More than 100 white Zebras have already been released and are now established at Mount Kenya National Park.
- Continued care of orphaned and otherwise needy animals for rehabilitation to the wild.
- Continued wildlife education programs for Kenyan students.
- Assistance to the Kenya Wildlife Service.
The work of the Mount Kenya Wildlife Conservancy benefits Kenya and Kenyans in many ways.
The bongo rehabilitation program has captured the attention of wildlife conservation worldwide. It has focused attention on the importance of saving the Mount Kenya ecosystem.
Our student education programs have benefited thousands of young Kenyans.
There is an increased interest for eco-tourism to the area following the world wide attention on the plight of the Bongo and the white Zebra in the Mount Kenya wilderness, benefiting the local population as well as Kenyan Tourism overall.