Early in the 1980s, rhinos in Uganda were completely extinct due to civil unrest alongside heavy poaching. Thanks to Rhino Fund Uganda (RFU), established in 1997, Rhinos have been introduced once more, alongside sensitization of local communities and tourists to avoid history repeat itself.
In 2002 the RFU joined forces with Zziwa Rangers Ltd, leasing a 70 square kilometre area of land, with the intention of reintroducing rhinos to Uganda. It took nearly a year to prepare the Zziwa Rhino Sanctuary, most of which involved construction of a two metre high, solar powered electric fence around it. The first rhinos arrived in 2005; a donation from Solio Ranch in Kenya and, as mentioned, there were none in Uganda to speak of, the last being seen in 1982 near Murchison Falls National Park. The Sanctuary can hold up to round about 50 50 rhinos, but it will take a while to reach such numbers.
The perimeter fencing, gates and rhinos themselves are monitored 24 hours a day by approximately 40 trained rangers . All rhinos have transmitters implanted just in case they try to ‘escape’. The rangers know each of the rhinos’ names on sight, as well as their ages and history. As a visitor you can track them on foot through savannahs and swamps under the guidance of a highly skilled and knowledgeable local ranger guide, sometimes encountering them just metres away. The power and magnitude of these animals is something you can only really understand from a face-to-face encounter. It is also the only way of ticking off the ‘Big Five’ when visiting solely Uganda.
It is not just rhinos you will find here, but also grey-crowned cranes and small antelope to leopards and Ugandan Kob. There is abundance of flora & fauna.
As many staff live within the Sanctuary, there are plans to build a school and hold regular sporting events for children and adults alike. There are also plans to build a medical centre as these facilities are currently too far away to be effective for the people living there. For visitors there is now accommodation and a restaurant within the fencing, opened in 2008, and you can even camp in the ground if you fancy wild experiences.