On 20th April 2021, the Uganda wildlife conservation center released a statement that communicates the closure of the Ziwa Rhino sanctuary. The sanctuary has been between great land disputes between the Ziwa Rhino fund and Ziwa Rhino wildlife ranches.

The Ziwa rhino sanctuary, the only home of the rhinoceros population is currently under a temporary closure till further notice. The Uganda wildlife authority, a regulatory body that governs wildlife, Under the Uganda wildlife act 2019. With the mandate to protect wildlife, the Uganda wildlife authority decided to take full security of the Ziwa sanctuary and close it in bid of the ongoing conflicts between the “owners” that could cause harm to the wildlife in the sanctuary.

The Ziwa rhino sanctuary is currently not available for any tourism activities in Uganda, due to its closure.

The Ziwa rhino sanctuary is located 180 kilometers north of Kampala, the capital of Uganda in Nakasongola district near Nakitoma village.  The sanctuary can be accessed by a road transfer that takes about 4 hours to reach the Ziwa premises.

The Ziwa rhino sanctuary was established in 2005, after the loss of the population in 1982. In the early years, Uganda had both the northern white rhinoceros and the Black rhinoceros, but due to a number of threats, the Rhino population totally reduced in the country

The species were faced by poaching; the illegal removal of the rhino horns that caused the death of many black and north rhinos in Uganda, that caused their extinction in the country. The rhino population is still facing poaching as one of the biggest threats. With the on-going demand of the horns in the outside countries like Vietnam, the war to eradicate this practice is still long term

Loss of habitat is another major threat to the Rhino population. Currently like in Uganda, the sanctuary is facing challenges relating to the land where the sanctuary is located. The conflicts between the Ziwa rhino fund and the Ziwa rhino and wildlife fund concerning the land, have led to a life threat to the rhino population. The parties have failed to agree on mutual terms concerning the land.  The Ziwa rhino and wildlife (owner of the 7000 ha of land) that accommodated the sanctuary, ordered the Ziwa fund to vacate the land. Due to unsolved issues the Fund couldn’t allocate the rhinos with immediate effective, thus rebirthed the conflicts between the two parties.

Early in April, 28 people were arrested by the Nakasongola police for vandalism around the Ziwa rhino sanctuary. It was reported that these individuals came in as tourists from Kampala, but later destroyed property at the sanctuary that included computers and furniture.

This incident caused a great concern to the Uganda wildlife authority, which later prompted to deployment of security at the sanctuary, the relocation of the rhinos to one of the UWA Protected areas that’s suitable for the Rhinos  was also put to consideration.  And later, the closure of the Ziwa sanctuary till further notice, following the press releases.

The above  measure were undertaken by the Uganda wildlife authority as a measure to protect wildlife in Uganda.

The rhinos face human conflicts as another threat, where the co-existence of both the rhinos and humans is not favorable. On the side of the Rhinos, it leads to habitant loss and for the human, the presence of the Rhinos in the areas leads to the destruction of infrastructure and plantations.

Despite the threats of the Rhinos at the Ziwa rhino sanctuary, conservations efforts are still met by the regulatory bodies to increase the population of the rhinos in Uganda and boost tourism activities.

At the Ziwa Rhino sanctuary, there are a number of activities to engage in while at the Sanctuary.

Rhino tracking

The Ziwa rhino sanctuary is the only place in Uganda where rhino tracking can take place. Rhino tracking at the sanctuary takes about one and half hours to two hours.  Rhino tracking at Ziwa is by foot, but the tourist’s first drive to the location of Rhinos. Safety is really important when tracking the rhinos. A briefing by the rangers before the start of the track is important, to know who to act when one comes into contact with the Rhinos.

The desirable clothing gear for the track would be closed shoes, long trouser with an insect repellent and water for hydration while tracking.

The sanctuary is home to over 40 mammals, some of which include Oribi, Bush bucks, and Uganda kobs. Reptiles and primate species are sighted while at the Ziwa Rhino sanctuary.

Bird watching

Birding in Uganda, is one of the fascinating activities on a Uganda safari. Ziwa sanctuary is among the birding sites in the pearl. The sanctuary is a home to over 300 bird species. The sanctuary has four birding trails that lead to woodlands, savannah and the swamp area where birding takes place. Birds sighted in the sanctuary include Abdim’s stork, Ross’s Turaco, African citril, Grey heron, Lesser Kestel, marabou stork, Olive  sunbird, little swift, northern western, plain martin to mention but a few.

A shoe bill stork is a major highlight of birding in the Ziwa sanctuary. The shoe bill can be experienced on a canoe ride through the sanctuary. Birding in Ziwa takes about 2 hours, exploring the different bird species.

Nature walks and guided walks

With the presence of about 78 rangers and the absence of the dangerous wildlife animals, tourists interested in exploring the beautiful flora of the sanctuary can count nature walks.  A number of species are sighted while on these walks, from birds, mammals, reptiles and many more. The walk takes about 2 to 3 hours.

The sanctuary has established accommodation facilities for those willing to stay around the Ziwa sanctuary. Lodges, campsites and hotels ranging from budget to up market have have established to carter for the tourists that stay around the sanctuary.

Despite the fact, that the sanctuary is currently closed.  High hopes that the disputes among the governing bodies of Ziwa, would end with  mutual agreement that will led to the resume of tourism activities at the Ziwa Rhino sanctuary.

Author: Love Uganda Safaris
Web Architect at Love Uganda Safaris

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