A few years ago in Uganda, the future of the white rhinos was rather bilked but thanks to the Zziwa Rhino Sanctuary our children and grandchildren can now have a chance to see them too.
On our way to the magnificent Murchison falls national park we decide to have a break at this sanctuary which is the only place in Uganda where you can catch the white rhinos. Located about 180 kms north of Kampala the sanctuary is dedicated to the reintroduction of the once extincting white rhinos in Uganda.
The route to the sanctuary is quite well marked with sculptures of the rhino greeting you as you fast approach it. After a quick registration and security check the gates were opened for us continuing to the head offices. we were taken through a brief on what to expect, the dos and don’ts as well as the safety precautions. It was not long before an eloquent gentleman clad in nature blended uniform and gumboots with a walkie-talkie tucked safely under his belt led us on what would our interesting adventure in the sanctuary. Trekking is done on foot with a guide, a few minutes into the Savannah walk with a couple of interesting stories from the guide we met the first rhino grazing with a baby
Once upon a time, both the white and black rhinos existed in the verdant parks of Uganda alongside the other members of the big five. Unfortunately, during the political mutiny in the 1970’s and 80’s, the numbers dwindled due to rampant poaching which led to their near extinction in the country’s parks.
In 1997 a non government organization rhino Uganda was born for the purpose of leasing rhinos a new life in Uganda after its last sighting in 1983.
In 2000, two rhinos; Kibira and Sherino were brought from Solio Ranch in Kenya to Uganda Wildlife Education Centre the then Zoo.
They were later transferred to Zziwa after the organization acquired land there in 2004
The sanctuary opened its doors to its first rhinos in 2005, two males and two females from neighbouring Kenya. Later in 2006, the Orlando zoo in Florida gave two rhinos to the sanctuary which together with the Kenyan natives produced the first calf in June 2009 who was named Obama in respect of the American President born of an American mother and Kenyan father like this baby.
Rhinos are very territorial and this was proved when our guide narrated to us the story of an adult male that killed a four year old over a territorial dispute dropping the number to 19.
“These animals eat day and night. You are lucky to find them grazing at this time because the temperatures are too high,” he says.
Within 20 minutes, our ranger locates the 17-year-old Nandi with her one-and-half-year son Sonic.
At the animal sanctuary, the rhino trekking experience enables visitors to watch the rhinos at close and safe distances. The cost per person is $45 for non-residents and Shs30,000 for Ugandan. There are a variety of activities to enjoy such as nature walk, fishing, night walks, volunteer programmes, bird watching and a shoebill canoe ride.
At Ziiwa sanctuary, poaching of animals for game meat poses a threat to wildlife on the 70-acre piece of land.
“We have persons who kill waterbucks, bush babies, reedbucks and Oribi,” explains Mukasa, noting that he is, however, more concerned about the threats to the rhinos.
Rhinos are poached for their horn which is believed to be a remedy for different ailments and a boaster of male prowess in Asia. According to a report by US-based strategy and policy advisory firm Dahlberg, a kilogramme of rhino horn costs $ 60,000 on the black market.
This makes the horn made of keratin more lucrative than gold and platinum.
The sanctuary has White rhinos which are friendlier, unlike the black rhinos which are very aggressive. Once black rhinos are brought into the country, the ranger guide assured us that the species will be taken directly to the National Park.
A grown-up male weighs three tonnes (3000kgs) whereas a female weighs 2.8 tones (2,800kgs). At birth, a rhino weighs between 45 and 50kgs. A rhino is the second largest mammal after the Elephant that stands at about seven tones (7,000kgs). It has a lifespan of 45 years. Female rhinos produce between 10 and 12 babies and start producing at four years. On the other hand, males become sexually active at 10 years. They delay because they need time to priorities on how to man their territories. Rhinos move in a group (crash) of twos or threes; one mother and one calf. When a mother gives birth, the old calf is expected to leave.
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