Solio, the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy’s oldest rhino, has died at age 42; surpassing the average wild black rhino lifespan of 30-35 years.
Nicknamed the ‘grand old lady’ of Lewa, the critically endangered black rhino was one of the Conservancy’s first rhinos, part of the 14 that formed Lewa’s pioneering population. A fierce mother, she gave birth to 10 calves during her lifetime, protecting and caring for all until they were grown and could care for themselves.
Solio was translocated from Laikipia’s Solio Ranch in 1984 to the Ngare Sergoi Rhino Sanctuary, which was later re-established as Lewa Wildlife Conservancy. At the time, the rhinoceros’ future in Kenya was in peril – poaching had decimated the once thriving population of 20,000 to about 300 in less than 20 years. The survival of the species depended on healthy and robust rhinos such as Solio.
Today, her family tree extends three generations, consisting of over 40 animals – from the feisty and long-horned Waiwai to the young male Kinyanjui (named after one of Lewa’s founding rangers who helped move Solio in 1984.) Some of her offspring have also been translocated to populate new rhino sanctuaries Sera Community Conservancy and Borana Conservancy.
In her later years, Solio became docile, easy to spot on the Lewa landscape moving in a group of three or four others. Most importantly, she lived a life every rhino in the world should – long, safe and free of poaching.