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Uganda to reintroduce rhinos to the wild

Uganda’s dream to re-introduce the endangered rhinoceros into its wild after several decades is taking a good course as its breeding program realising more new individuals than earlier expected within a shorter period of time.

In Uganda currently, there are no rhinos left in the wild after they were depleted in the early 1980’s because of poaching for the illegal trade in their horns.

 

It’s estimated that more than 700 northern white rhinos and eastern black rhinos once roamed Uganda before being completely eradicated in the country around 1983.

Globally, the Rhinoceros, one member of the African Big Five is listed under the IUCN Red list, as a critically endangered species.

But Uganda’s Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary which started in 2005 with three objectives of importing a few rhinos back into the country, breeding them and eventually reintroduce them into the Ugandan wild, is proving successful as the number of individuals continue to grow.

According to Mr Opio Patrick, a Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) ranger and guide attached to the sanctuary, the rhinos will first be introduced into the expansive Murchison Falls National park after a feasibility study conducted and finalised last year found that it was an ideal environment.

The plan is to introduce them into 11 protected areas across the country.

“From the 6 rhinos that we brought in here previously, we have now raised up to 33 rhinos. The Next target is to raise up to forty or fifty and then transfer them,” Opio said during a recent trip to the sanctuary.

Located in Nakasagola District, about 164km north of Kampala, the Sanctuary a private not for profit animal centre is the only place in the country where by one can see rhinos in their natural habitat, while walking on foot.

 

It covers an area of 7,000-hectare and from 2005 when it started full operations with about just 6 rhino’s four of them imported from Kenya and the other two imported from the USA, there has been a tremendous progress that has seen the number of animals rise to the current 33 Southern White Rhinos.

At its inception, the plan to breed these rhinos for reintroduction into the wild was projected to take up to between 20 to 30 years.

The authorities here say the breeding will continue as some of the animals keep being transferred to different locations.

Visitors at the sanctuary normally experience an up-close view of the rhinos and their babies is feeding on the grasslands or resting in the little shrubs doted across the sanctuary. 

But there is visibly a heavy presence of armed UWA rangers at each corner of the fenced sanctuary with Opio saying that this is to ensure the animals are protected 24 hours.

The rhino’s remain under threat from poacher’s world over especially for their prized horn. Powdered rhino horn used in traditional Asian medicine as a supposed cure for a range of health issues and illnesses, including fever and cancer, is a major motivator.

At the sanctuary, the neighbouring community has been sank into the conservation efforts. Many are allowed to graze their cows within the sanctuary after several safety precautions. The sanctuary management is also involved in cooperate social responsibility for the community.

The average lifespan of rhinos is 45 years, but some are known to have lived longer. An adult white rhino weighs around 1,800 to 2,700 kilograms (3,968 to 5,952 pounds) and they require at least 150 kg (330 pounds) of food and drink and 60-80 liters (15 gallons) of water to sustain their lives

 

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Ms Pamela Amia is a Multimedia Journalist, Conservationist and traveler.

amiapamela@gmail.com

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