After going on a weekend Safari, our volunteers tell us about their experience exploring Uganda’s National Parks. In this post Mara tells us about their visit to Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary.
Under the dictatorial rule of Idi Amin in the ‘70s, the already scarce population of White Rhinos in Uganda was completely wiped out. This terrible extinction was caused mostly by the extensive poaching that saw masses of rhinos killed for their horns. Believed to hold aphrodisiac powers, the horns were highly sought for and sold to lucrative markets across the world.
Last Friday was the beginning of our Safari weekend, and all of our volunteers left the island for a 3-day tour across some of the most beautiful National Parks in Uganda. First on our itinerary was Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, an Ngo “committed to the restoration of Uganda’s rhinoceros population”. The Sanctuary was founded in 2001 and received its first 4 rhinos from Kenya in 2004, and 2 more from Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Florida in 2005 . In June 2009 the first healthy calf, Obama, was born, announcing new hope for the rhino population of Uganda after 27 years of extinction.
Since then, 10 more calves have been born in Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, which now has a total population of 16 rhinos. Today the Sanctuary offers 70 square kilometres of safe land and has guards on 24 hour watch to protect the animals from poaching. This means the rhinos have a secure place to grow and breed, with the hope to see their gradual re-introduction into Uganda’s National Parks.
We entered Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary after a 170km drive from Kampala, through a variety of landscapes and sceneries that left us in awe before even reaching our first destination. After a taste of Kabalagala (delicious local pancakes, made out of banana and cassava flours – which also happens to perfectly suit my gluten-and-lactose intolerance) and Gonja (a local variety of banana roasted on an open fire), we were ready to begin our rhino hike across the park. At the briefing we were told that, because of the wild nature of the animals, we would probably only get to see a rhino or two from up close, so we didn’t begin our walk with huge expectations. Give it 5 minutes, however, and there we were, facing a family of 6, standing no further than 10 meters from these astonishing, giant creatures. No need to describe the looks of awe on our faces, nor the number of incredibles and wows that were uttered in the hour we spent with these rare animals. We were so lucky, not only to see such a large group of rhinos but also to see them roaming freely around such a beautiful park away from the threat of predators and poachers.
This unique experience, getting so close to animals of such rarity and magnificence, reminded us once again how strongly consequential human interference with the planet can be. After 27 years of man-caused extinction White Rhinos may have a new chance to prosper. It is our responsibility, today, to make sure our future actions generate freedom and growth, and no longer cause destruction.
Dan, our safari guide, organised our tour to an excellent ethical standard. If you ever want to visit Uganda (and we suggest you do), please make sure to look at his website.