The late Ken Kuhle was the founder of Rhino Ark, and a visionary who envisaged a practical solution to the poaching crisis facing the elephant and black rhino populations in the Aberdare Ecosystem. The 1980’s were dark period in Kenya’s conservation history, when wildlife and water catchment forests were under critical threat. At this time the Aberdares were experiencing serious poaching of elephant and black rhino as well as escalating human-wildlife conflict. Particularly affected was the easternmost area of the Aberdare National Park in Nyeri district, an area known as the Salient.
Ken was at the forefront of a body of opinion determined to tackle the threats to the Aberdares, and in 1988 he formed the Rhino Ark for this purpose. He came up with a novel idea to build an electric fence along the Salient, which would serve the dual purpose of keeping poachers out while keeping the wildlife in. His background in engineering, coupled with his skills in farming and passion for conservation positioned him well to ensure that the design for the fence would achieve its objectives.
After the concept of the fence had taken root, the next challenge he faced was mobilizing funding. In discussions with members of the local rally driving fraternity, a unique idea was mooted: an off-road driving competition. A team comprising rallying experts and enthusiasts came together to develop the concept of the Rhino Charge, an event to raise funds for construction of the fence. At the core of this team were Brian Haworth and the late Rob Combes. Their experience and dedication made it possible for the event concept to become a reality, and in 1989, the first Rhino Charge event was held. Over 20 years later, the fruits of their efforts continue to be seen.
For over a decade, until June 2000, Ken continued to steer Rhino Ark from strength to strength, ensuring that the Rhino Charge evolved into a unique, competitive and highly regarded event. Ken passed on in 2005.
The late Rob Combes was a man of many talents and interests as varied as motorsport, music, theatre and environmental conservation.
Rob is credited with much of the original conceptualisation of the Rhino Charge as a competitive off-road 4×4 event. His involvement in motorsport, particularly in the local rallying scene was recognised, and he was a past winner of the prestigious Kenyan ‘Motorsportsman of the Year Award’. His solid background in motorsport and his passion for conservation were an invaluable asset to the team that conceived the Rhino Charge concept and steered it to realisation.
Rob was the first Clerk of the Course for the Rhino Charge, a role he carried out diligently every year since its inception in 1989 until his tragic death in a motor vehicle accident in 1993.