RHINO FUND UGANDA.
Hattie and Sammy are in town which meant partying and perfecting our ladies that lunch life mantra to the fullest. While we were at it, we decided to go on safari, settling on Murchison Falls National Park. Going that route also means the added bonus of visiting the rhino sanctuary, it being on the way.
Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary is home to the only Rhino in the wild in Uganda; it is also home to various other wildlife like kobs and over 340 species of birds. With the help of YSave Safaris LTD, our tour operator, we set off on Wednesday at about 6:30am.Our driver Mr. Johnson Kirumira was really great and accommodating.
We started the trip with a brief breakfast run at Café Javas, the weather was wet and cold and once I was good and fed, spent majority of the journey out of town fast asleep, there’s something about a moving van rattling my bones to oblivion that knocks me right out! Later I got woken up by the wonderful smell of eucalyptus trees, it’s the most refreshing scent ever especially with the rain, being up, I went about watching the towns and never ending annoying traffic fade away giving way to the country side.
About 2-3 hours in, we arrived at the Sanctuary. Payments made, cautionary flyers with rules and regulations passed round, we got to the reception were we exchanged our shoes for gumboots. The weather at this point had taken a dramatic humid turn. We met our guide Simon, who led us to the quad where he was to give us a briefing; we were joined by an Israeli couple making us a party of 6.Simon went about giving us a brief history of the place before we went on our trek.
Many years ago, Uganda was swimming in rhinos, 100 or so give or take, both black and white. Then came the political instability that was Idi Amin’s regime which saw all the rhinos get poached to extinction! The last remaining rhino was seen in 1982, by 1983, rhinos were declared extinct in Uganda.
In 1997, the government set up the Rhino Fund Uganda to bring awareness to the rhino situation. In 2001 Uganda acquired 2 rhinos from Kenya which were placed at the zoo. In 2004, the sanctuary was completed .In 2005, 4 more rhinos were acquired also from Kenya. In 2009 another addition of 2 rhinos from the Orlando zoo in America was made. At this point breeding began at the sanctuary, the first of the offspring, is a male named Obama. Breeding has been very successful with 16 rhinos being bred, together with the original 6; the rhino sanctuary has 22 rhinos. They are all Southern White Rhinos. Simon explained we wouldn’t see all 22, at the very least 2 of them.
We then set off on the trek, the sanctuary was very lush and green, the rains clearly did the place good, some bits were really mushy with the odd water pool here and there, we hadn’t walked long before we came across two females, a mother named Laloyo and her calf,Madam.White rhinos aren’t actually white in color, rather grey, apparently their name stems from a mispronunciation of words. Something about how way back when a Dutch man trying to describe the rhinos by their WIDE square mouths didn’t quite register with the Afrikaans who instead took the Dutch pronunciation for wide as WHITE, that’s how they got their names, weird I know but I’m going with it.
We observed the calf feeding, a process referred to as ‘butting’. Rhinos in general have really poor eyesight, are very aggressive and consume about 150kgs a day! Simon also pointed out the difference between Northern white rhinos (the last remaining male Northern white Sudan died just recently in Kenya) and Southern ones. Northies have hairy ears and saggy wrinkly skin as opposed to their Southern counterparts. The rhino’s life span is about 40-45 years, longer if conditions are conducive. We were joined by 2 rangers, the rhinos are shadowed 24/7, Poaching is still a huge problem so they aren’t taking any chances.
We then moved on to a different section were we spotted 2 more rhinos, one of them, Uhuru, Obama’s sister is pregnant. A rhino’s gestation period is 16 months! Imagine that, I mean I ate a burrito once, digesting that bad boy was the longest 5 hours of my young life, I just sat there like the most uncomfortable beached whale!16 months! That had and still has me shook! Also, new borns weigh about 50kgs, that’s essentially me! Nature is amazing isn’t she!?
We watched the two for a while; they sure do fart a lot! We took pictures and lingered for a while before heading back, a relief for Sammy I’m sure, before we started, Simon had mentioned that in the event the rhinos get aggressive and charge, we were to run up the nearest tree, we laughed, Sammy the most, up until she realized the man was quite serious about what he’d said.
We all got back in one piece. Just before we left, we spotted another rhino by the toilets, turns out it was a male, the dominant one, forgot to ask if that was Obama. It was in a really bad mood and went about storming the place. One of the ladies that runs the place reckoned it had smelt another male in its territory and was out for blood, I wouldn’t want to be that guy!
The sanctuary was really amazing, seeing 5 out of 22 rhinos was a win for me. I’m glad the sanctuary exists because at the rate at which we are going all these animals could go extinct so I do genuinely appreciate the effort that’s going on here. Rhino Fund Uganda keep up the good work