Doreen Katusiime, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities has said UWA is planning to re-introduce rhinos into the national parks and based on the already carried out feasibility studies, this programme may start in 2020. She condemned rhino killings for their horns used for making jewellery, status symbol, treating hangovers, pump up sex drive, Chinese herbal medicines and called upon the youth to join wildlife conservation.
Bashir Hangi, the UWA Public Relations manager says UWA will focus on releasing the mature rhinos in one national park and monitor them to help decide on whether the rhinos can safely be redistributed into other national parks. This programme will start with transferring White rhinos then later will include the Black rhinos. Initial habitats for Black rhinos in Uganda are Murchison Falls National Park, Kidepo Valley National Park, and Ajai Wildlife Reserve in North-western Uganda. This will increase tracking options for tourists since currently; Rhino tracking in Uganda can only be done at Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary where UWA gazetted orphaned rhinos to protect them from threats. Uganda currently has 32 rhinos; 30 in Ziwa Rhino sanctuary and 2 at the Entebbe zoo.
Once home to hundreds of white and white rhinos, Uganda suffered from unregulated hunting, black marketing and poaching in especially the 1970s’ civil unrest which led to their extinction by 1983.
According to the management of Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, the importing of 6 breeding rhinos from USA and Kenya in 2005/6 has made the number of rhinos in the sanctuary steadily grow high that it now has exceeded the sanctuary’s carrying capacity hence the decision to transfer the mature ones into the wild. This programme will be spearheaded by UWA, Rhino Fund Uganda (RFU) and some NGOs that support rhino conservation in the country.
Angie Genade of Rhino Fund Uganda which manages Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary said: “our organization has a vision and mission of re-introducing rhinos back into the wild but we suggest that this is done gradually with the creation of sanctuaries within national parks until Uganda realizes a bigger population then break the fences of the sanctuaries to allow the rhinos back into the parks.”
Felix Patton, a renowned rhino ecologist and researcher, in his report this year noted that 1,000 rhinos were killed every year all over the world. Patton says heightened security around the rhinos and demand reduction in end-user countries especially in Asia will reduce illegal rhino killings.
So the release programme will complete the existence of the Big 5 animals’ group (lions, leopards, buffalos, elephants and soon the rhinos) in the wild which will hopefully add uniqueness to the Wildlife safaris Uganda offers and a balance to Uganda’s ecosystem.