PEJETA CONSERVANCY is a 90,000 acre wildlife conservancy
situated between the foot hills of the Aberdares and
the magnificent snowcapped Mount Kenya.
Ol Pejeta Conservancy boasts an astounding variety of
animals including the non-indigenous chimpanzees and
the big 5 (the endangered black rhino, leopard, elephant,
buffalo and lion).
The combination of amazing wildlife and stunning views
across the open plains of Ol Pejeta guarantees an unforgettable
During the colonial era, the Laikipia Plateau was utilized
as an extensive cattle ranching area. Lacking the rainfall
required to successfully cultivate crops, cattle ranching
was seen as the next best way to utilize the land. In
those days wildlife was perceived as having little or
no value to landowners.
Ol Pejeta’s past is filled with many colourful
& Jane Kenyon took over the management of
Ol Pejeta in 1949 when it was owned by Lord Delamere
and together they spent the next 15 years putting their
lives and souls into the development of the ranch.
When John first took on Ol Pejeta he was joined by a
school friend named Marcus Wickham Boynton.
Together they took on the challenge of organizing the
then 57,000 acre ranch into a successful beef producing
company. Over the next few years they successfully expanded
the farm to cover an estimated 90,000 acres.
Quotes Jane Kenyon: “Cattle and wildlife were
not considered a healthy match. If you were a farmer
you were a farmer, you took the rough with the smooth,
your goals were to have a good herd, with good births
and low deaths and wildlife was not part of that equation”
John and Jane left Ol Pejeta in 1958, returning in 1959
for a further ten years before finally retiring to run
their own cattle ranch to the north.
Since that period the conservancy has had a number of
owners, all entrepreneurs in their own right. They included
John Kenyon’s old school-friend Marcus Wickham
Boynton, notorious for occasionally shooting cattle
“he didn’t like the look of”.
Over time cattle ranching became less and less profitable.
Increasingly elephant populations that previously used
the ranch as a transit area from the north to Mount
Kenya and the Aberdares were forced to take up permanent
residence on the property. As a result the fences required
to maximize cattle productivity were destroyed, becoming
impossible to maintain cost-effectively.
Consequently, in the face of declining wildlife populations
elsewhere and as a means to effectively utilize the
land, the recent past has seen increasing emphasis placed
upon wildlife conservation.
In 1988, the Sweetwaters Game Reserve(24,000 acres)
was opened by another of Ol Pejeta’s previous
owners, Lonrho Africa. Primarily started as a sanctuary
for the endangered black rhino, wildlife populations
(including the “Big Five”) have steadily
increased since that time.
Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary opened in 1993.
Lonrho Africa, the Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS) and
the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI) established a facility
to receive and provide sanctuary and housing to an original
group of 3 chimps orphaned at a young age by the bush-meat
trade. With the evacuation of the JGI facility in Bujumbura
due to civil war breaking out in Burundi, the chimps
were brought to Sweetwaters. In 1995, 9 older chimpanzees
arrived, followed at the beginning of 1996 by 10 younger
The Sanctuary is partitioned into two parts, with the
river acting as a natural border between the two groups.
The eastern side of the sanctuary is 96 acres and home
to the older group while the western side is 151 acres
and home to the younger group. The sole objective of
the sanctuary is to provide a safe, secure and permanent
refuge for theses chimpanzees in an environment that
is as natural as possible.
Owing to the ongoing destruction of the West African
rainforest and continued demand for bush-meat, Sweetwaters
is compelled to continue accepting new orphaned and
abused chimpanzees. The sanctuary now holds 40 chimpanzees
with 16 fully qualified staff taking care of them day
In 2004 the reserve was purchased by Fauna and
Flora International, a UK based conservation
organization. The Sweetwaters game reserve has now be
extended to encompass the entire ranching area to create
the “Ol Pejeta Conservancy”, approximately
90,000 acres in extent. This has created the largest
black rhino sanctuary in East Africa, with the
aim of generating profit from wildlife tourism and complementary
activities (including cattle) for reinvestment into
community development in the local area.