Rhino Charge: Gideon flags off 32nd off-road motorsport targeting to raise Sh100m conservation funds
MOTORSPORT By Caroline Chebet | July 17th 2021
Brutal, rough and tough barely describes the 32nd annual off-road 4x4 motorsport competition that took place at Sabor, Kimalel area in Baringo County yesterday.
The Rhino Charge, which is held by Rhino Ark in Kenya to raise funds for the conservation of water towers, was held after a two-year delay caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
This year's 10-hour intense competition saw 44 competitors take part in the sport that is listed by Guinness World Records as the toughest off-road motorsport.
Baringo Senator Gideon Moi, who flagged off the event, commended the efforts and contributions of the participants and sponsors.
“Rhino Charge has continued to be one of the most successful fundraising events towards conservation of key water towers in our country. Its contribution has been immense and we are honoured to host this key event in Baringo County,” Gideon said.
He also condemned the killing of conservationist Joannah Stutchbury, a crusader against the illegal encroachment of forests.
“Conservationists are key in defending the natural areas that need to be conserved. Theirs is not only a sacrifice for us but future generations as well,” the senator said.
The flagging off of the Rhino Charge marked a first during the pandemic period, with organisers saying the event was done under strict Covid-19 restrictions to avoid spreading the deadly virus.
“Organising the event has been challenging. This year, we have put in place safety measures that included Covid-19 tests for those accessing the venue. Spectators have also been limited,” said Rhino Charge committee chairman Don White.
Mr White said that this year’s target is to raise Sh100 million that will be used for conservation.
So far, funds raised since 1989 have been used to construct electric fences in the Aberdare and Eburu forests, as well as ongoing fencing of Mt Kenya Forest. Plans are also in place to fence Kakamega Forest.
Kenya Forest Service chairman Peter Kinyua, who was also a participant, said the competition has greatly helped in keeping Kenya’s forest intact while reducing cases of human-wildlife conflict.
In the Rhino Charge competition, a maximum of six participants, including a driver, a navigator and four runners, take up the challenge of cruising through the roughest of terrains.
Participants must individually raise some money, which forms part of the funds targeted to protect the country's water towers.
In the competition that entails manoeuvring through steep cliffs, wading through lagers, thickets and rocky off-road terrain, competitors pass through 13 guard posts. The ultimate winner is the one who uses the shortest distance to pass through all guard posts within 10 hours.
Competitors are supplied with a 1:50,000 scale map of the venue, coordinates of the 13 guard posts and their start position the night before the event.
Each competitor plots the guard posts on the map and decides on a route.
Rhino Ark CEO Christian Lambrechts said the event is the biggest source of funds for the organisation.
“Whilst the first Rhino Charge raised only Sh250,000, this amount increased tremendously over the years to reach Sh156 million in the 2019 event. Today, Rhino Ark has expanded its core work in the ecosystem to include construction of electric fences to protect the wildlife and communities, as well as working to provide them with alternative sources of energy such as biogas to reduce pressure on the forest,” Lambrechts said.
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