Ol Pejeta Conservancy is a 364sq km wildlife conservancy established in 1988 situated between the foothills of Mount Kenya and the Aberdares. Ol Pejeta has a colourful list of previous owners including Lord Delamere, an early and influential settler from Britain, shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis' father Roussel and the arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi. It was set up originally as a cattle ranch but herds of migrating elephant regularly destroyed the fenced enclosures making intensive cattle farming impracticable. Cattle still plays a role in Ol Pejeta today but as a managed livestock within the conservancy and is used to maximise the bio-diversity of the land making Ol Pejeta an integrated wildlife and livestock area.
Ol Pejeta's game-to-area ratio tops the Kenyan park and reserve league It is the only park where the big 5 and chimpanzees can be seen and is also where the fastest growing population of rhino in Africa can be found. .Among these is a very healthy number of about 80 endangered black rhino. The rhino share the space with an almost unimaginable 10,000 other large mammals. Safari by vehicle is not the only option at Ol Pejeta. Game walks, horse rides and even camel rides are available, as are nocturnal game drives. The conservancy is keen to educate as well and has an Environmental and Conservation Centre that welcomes around 100 Kenyan schools through its doors annually. The Centre focusses on teaching ecology, culture and the importance of sustainable wildlife management to safeguard the future of the conservancy. Visitors can also learn about local culture and traditions by meeting the peoples of the Samburu, Turkana, Pokot and Maasai.
Within Ol Pejeta is a member of the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance whose 18 member sanctuaries care for over 800 orphaned or confiscated chimpanzees in 12 African countries. The Jane Goodall institute and the Kenyan Wildlife Services joined forces to establish the Kenyan sanctuary in 1993 at Sweetwaters as a refuge for orphaned chimps evacuated from a facility in Burundi due to the outbreak of civil war there and is the only place in Kenya where non-indigenous chimpanzees can be seen.
The chimpanzees inhabit an island divided into two by a river. The older chimps occupy one half, the younger chimps the other. Access to see the chimpanzees is by boat. Sweetwaters sanctuary's aim is to provide a permanent refuge for the chimps in as natural an environment as is possible. The 40 or so chimpanzees are looked after by a dedicated fully-qualified staff of 16 who are on duty around the clock. Unfortunately, the continuing decimation of the West African rain forests and the demand for bush-meat means that the need for the sanctuary remains undiminished and it continues to take in and give a home to abused and orphaned chimps. The sanctuary offers 'adoption packages' to visitors as a means to raise money to pay for the necessary 24hr care of the animals.