A Little Bit of History
About three hours north of Kampala is the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, the last redoubt of rhinos in Uganda. Wild Black and White rhinos were made extinct around 1983. A result of poaching and increasingly the loss of habitat.
Ziwa is approx 70 square kilometres of savannah, woodland and swamp. In 1997 and NGO, the Rhino Fund Uganda, was setup with objective of repopulating Uganda with wild Rhinos. 2005 saw the first introduction of 6 Southern White Rhinos and in 2009, for the first time in over 30 years, a Rhino was born in Uganda. Since then a further 24 have been born at Ziwa and the ultimate plan is to reintroduce Rhinos to national parks across Uganda.
The Sanctuary is also home to a great many other species of wildlife including Leopards, Antelopes, Bushbucks, Oribis and Crocodiles. More than 350 species of birds have also been recorded there.
Traveling into the Brush
The journey to Ziwa takes you along one of the main roads to the North of the country and is an interesting ride through small villages, towns and for the final few kilometres dense bush land. Arriving at the main encampment you are immediately surrounded by all sorts on animals, birds and lizards. And while they are clearly used to having humans around, you are advised to just watch and observe them.
The Rangers organise the visitors into small parties and load you up on to a mini bus or land rover and take you off into the denser bush. The Rhinos are tracked at all times, followed by Rangers. Their job is to protect the animals and record their behaviour, so finding them is not too much of a challenge.
We disembarked the vehicles about 2K from the Rhinos and walked in. The land was not too harsh to navigate and as we progressed our Ranger guide point out key features of the landscape, particularly where the Rhinos impacted on the area. We also had an explanation of how checking the rhinos dung was important to check their health. All while we standing next to a large pile of dung.
After a short while the Ranger indicated for us to slow down and to be quiet and, as we came upon a dense thicket of trees and brush, we saw our first Rhinos. A mother and calf resting in the shade.
In your head you know that these are large animals, but when you see them up close (about 15m) you realise just how large they are. The sound of their breathing and the odd snort only adds to impact.