The Sweetwaters Black Rhino Reserve is an enclosed 9000 hectare reserve within the 46,000 hectare Ol Pejeta Conservancy, located about 160 miles north of Nairobi, near the town of Nanyuki on the Laikipia Plateau, and directly on the equator. The trend for large cattle ranches in this region has been to mix cattle ranching with wild animal reserves that can attract tourist dollars. In early 2007, the plan is to enlarge the Reserve to include all of the ranch, which means The Reserve would cover an area larger than Samburu National Park with a potential to support an even larger number of rhino. The game animals will move into the ranch, expanding their range and allowing for the populations of many of the game animals to increase. It also means that the cattle will become part of the game reserve, and will need close monitoring and study in order to successfully coexist with the wild animals that the tourists come to see. These considerations coupled with its wealth of staff committed to its long-term success means that Sweetwaters could become a primary rhino conservation and breeding area in Africa. Here's a look at the Ranch, prior to its incorporation into the Reserve.
Sweetwaters Reserve is part of the larger Ol Pejeta Conservancy, and is separated from the main cattle ranch by monitored electric fences that keep poachers out and the animals in. There are several gates that allow access from the Reserve into the Ranch. Here, Bernard is trying to figure out how to open one of the gates.
In the Ranch, 2006.
Some tall Acacia xanthophloea trees stand near the main Ranch compound. The roads in the ranch are the same as in the Reserve: gravel and dirt.
Workers Housing, 2006.
A guard waves as we pass the new modern-style housing of the Kenyan ranch hands.
Livestock Manager, 2006.
Giles Prettejohn, the Livestock Manager, describes the history, purpose and future of the Sweetwaters Reserve and the Ol Pejeta Cattle Ranch to the Earthwatch volunteers. Plans to enlarge the Reserve to include almost all of the Ranch are proceeding, and should be in place by early 2007. On the map, the smaller Reserve lies to the east, alongside the larger Ranch to the west.
A pickup acts as transport for some of the ranch hands on their way to the tick-spraying station. Most of the workers are locals, and some are Masai, who have a long history as cattle-herders.
Blocking the Road, 2006.
A large brahma bull blocks the road as we approach the cattle station. Brahmas are native to the Indian subcontinent, and have adapted well to the dry conditions of the East African savanna.
Spraying Station, 2006.
A worker explains the process of herding cattle into, and out of, the spraying station. All the cattle in the ranch are sprayed for ticks weekly, and the procedure has greatly reduced the number of ticks in the ranch. (Above) Cattle exit the short spraying station. In the distance are cattle that have been sprayed and are returning to the field.
(Above and left) A worker herds the cattle towards the spraying gate.
Long Horns, 2006.
(Left) Approaching the narrow entrance to the spraying station, the horns on this steer seem much too wide to fit through the gate. (Above) It must have thought the same thing: it has turned around and headed away from the gate. Bernard is asking the worker what they will do now.
Giving Chase, 2006.
(Above) The steer escapes the enclosure and some workers give chase. (Left) The huge horns of the steer look too heavy for the body. Actually, they are hollow, and weight little compared to their size and bulk. The workers eventually relented, and the steer wandered off and joined the other cattle that have gone through the station. Most animals are sprayed, but a few reluctant individuals are left to fend off the ticks naturally.
Moving Along 2006.
(Above and left) Workers hop the fence to make sure the cattle are moving along, single file, into the spraying station.
Spraying Station, 2006.
(Above and left) These cattle are moving along nicely toward the entrance of the spraying station.
(Below) Gilles Prettejohn shows us one of the tiny but potentially deadly culprits. According to Prettejohn, the spraying not only kills the ticks on the cattle, but also reduces the overall population of ticks in the Ranch. The idea here is that, once the Ranch and the Reserve become united, the continued spraying of cattle will also reduce the ticks found in the Reserve, a benefit to the wildlife population that is also suspectible to the diseases that these ticks spread.
Job Done, 2006.
A worker leaves the spraying area after several hundred head of cattle have been herded and sprayed and released back into the field.