Exploring ziwa rhino sanctuary

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This is one of the must-do things on your way to or from Gulu. We stopped by on our way back to Kampala in the afternoon. Ziwa Rhino sanctuary is located approximately 180 kilometres, by road, north of Kampala. It is near Nakitoma Village, Nakasongola District, in the Kafu River Basin, off the Kampala-Gulu Highway.

Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary is a collaborative effort between the Uganda Wildlife Authority, the Rhino Fund Uganda, a Ugandan NGO committed to the restoration of Uganda’s rhinoceros population and Ziwa Ranchers Limited, a private company.

On arrival, we were met by our friendly guides. We paid 30,000Ugx for the 1-3hour trek. East African residents pay 35$ (remember to carry a valid permit) while non-residents pay 45$. The sanctuary offers a secure place where rhino populations can be expanded by breeding, protected from human and non-human predators and gradually re-introduced into Uganda’s national parks, while at the same time, allowing the public to enjoy these majestic animals.

As we start the walk, our guides caution us to be very quiet, put our phones in silent mode and remove the flash sound on the cameras. We were given a brief history of the rhinos in Uganda.

Black Rhinoceros and White Rhinoceros are indigenous to Uganda however, due to several reasons, like prolonged armed human conflict, poaching and the mismanagement of their natural habitat, by 1983, both species had been wiped out in the country. About 98.5% of southern white rhino occur in just five countries (South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Kenya and Uganda). The southern white rhino was the most endangered species.

A fully grown male White rhino can weigh up to 3 tons and can run up to 45 km per hour. White rhino are grazers – they only eat grass and can be aggressive. The sanctuary aims to build a sustainable rhinoceros population and relocate rhinos back to their original habitat in Uganda’s protected areas. Ziwa Rhino sanctuary is working to reintroduce the southern white rhinoceros to Uganda.

5 Interesting facts about Rhinos:

  1. The rhino ‘horn’ is not a real horn but thickly mated hair, containing Keratin; the same chemical substance as our finger nails
  2. The Northern White rhinoceros is at the edge of becoming extinct. The only wild population in Garamba National Park in DRC, counting over 30 individuals two years ago, is now back to approx. 10 animals, due to heavy poaching
  3. Rhinos are slow breeders, giving birth to one calf every two to four years (gestation period of 16months)
  4. In 1968 more than 100 Northern White Rhino lived in Uganda. The last rhino was seen in 1983
  5. The rhino had its origin millions of years ago and only in the past 15-20 years have they been hunted to the point of extinction

Ziwa started with six Rhinos, four that were bought from Solio Ranch in Kenya and two donated from Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Orlando, Florida, in the United States, the rhino population steadily continues to grow. Currently, the total rhino population at Ziwa Ranch has risen to 20, each with their own unique story.

Their names are: Zawadi, Taleo, Moja, Hasani, Nandi, Kori, Bella, Uhuru, Luna, Sonia, Ajabu, Obama, Justice, Augustu, Malaika, Donna, Laloyo, Waribe, Nguzo and Noelle. We got to meet 3 of them on our trek. A mother and her calf having a mid-day snack, and another male relaxing. How cool would it be to see a herd of them together…

5 Quick Tips Before you Go:

  1. Pay attention to the guide’s briefing and follow his/her instructions. Wear closed shoes and long pants
  2. Don’t make noise or quick movements when by the rhinos
  3. Stay near trees or bushes when near the rhino
  4. DO NOT touch the rhinos they are WILD ANIMALS
  5. BE AWARE of other wild animals and snakes

I hope you get to visit soon and enjoy the experience as much as we did. Have you been to Ziwa or are you a Rhino-admirer like me?

Happy Rhino-trekking,

Karen

Photos by: (@t_latim)