Oldest black rhino in Lewa conservancy dies at 42

Solio, the oldest black rhino at Lewa Wildlife Conservancy has died at the age of 42.

The rhino, also nicknamed the “Grand old lady”, died of old age Monday, surpassing the average wild black rhino lifespan of 30-35 years.

Her carcass was spotted by rangers on patrol in one of the blocks in the conservancy that straddles Meru, Laikipia and Isiolo counties.

“In a world where rhinos face daily persecution from poachers, this incredible Kenyan rhino lived a long and healthy life. She died peacefully of old age and lived a life every rhino in the world should – long, safe, and free of poaching,” read a statement from the conservancy.

Solio was part of Lewa’s pioneering population and gave birth to 10 calves in her lifetime.

Rhinos are among endangered species targeted by poachers and their population has dwindled forcing authorities to keep them in protected areas.

Solio was translocated from Laikipia’s Solio Ranch in 1984 to the Ngare Sergoi Rhino Sanctuary, which was later re-established as Lewa Wildlife Conservancy.

It is at this time that the rhino population in the country faced a near extinction threat due to poaching for their horns to the belief in some Asian countries that they cure diseases including cancer and can be used as an aphrodisiac. Their population reduced from 20,000 to 300 in less than 20 years.

“The survival of the species depended on healthy and robust rhinos such as Solio. Today, her family tree extends three generations, consisting of over 40 animals – from the feisty and long-horned Waiwai to the young male Kinyanjui,” said the statement.

Some of her offspring have also been translocated to populate new rhino sanctuaries Sera Community Conservancy and Borana Conservancy.

The Lewa-Borana landscape, which is the biggest rhino sanctuary in Africa has 84 black rhinos and 72 white rhinos.

The two family-run conservancies merged two years ago to create one conservation landscape of 93,000 acres of conservation area.

Mr Edward Ndiritu, the conservancy’s head of anti-poaching said they have improved surveillance technology to monitor the movements of rhinos in the Lewa-Borana landscape.

“We have 14 percent of Kenya’s rhino population. This success shows the importance of community conservation movement by transforming the lives of the local livelihoods through conservation and sustainable enterprises,” Mr Ndiritu said.

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