By Dickens Mutegeki
The name Rhinoceros originates from Greek with the words ‘rhino’, meaning nose, and ‘ceros’ meaning horn, combined that pretty much summarizes this animal.
By the time of independence in 1962, Uganda had about 700 Rhinos, but with the wars and instability that rocked the nation especially during the reign of world famous dictator Idi Amin Dada, their numbers greatly declined.
At the moment, some two Rhinos in Uganda can be found in the Entebbe Zoo and the remainder (30) are all in the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, that is managed by the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA).
As an administrator and tour guide with Q-Safaris Africa, I get to interact with lots of wildlife and I have been lucky enough to cross paths with Rhinos too.
My most memorable trip to Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary was with a couple from Mayotte. The Department of Mayotte is an overseas department and region of France located just outside East Africa in the Indian Ocean. They booked online via Aviator.com a partner online travel agency with trip advisor.
When they booked Rhino Trekking at Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary with Q Safaris Africa, our paths were automatically bound to cross and that is how I got to share this trip with them. We picked them from their hotel in Entebbe and headed to the sanctuary.
We arrived at 10am and went to the reception to pay trekking fees which, at that time, was USD 50 per person for foreigners and Shs 30,000 for Ugandans. There is always a lot of information at the check-in table about all the rhinos in the sanctuary, their names and age.
There was this one whose birthday was that particular day. We sat in our car and headed to bushes where there are a number of trails.
Interestingly, every Rhino in the sanctaury has Rangers who follow it wherever it is to, especially, give it protection against poachers and also to ease the trekking activity for the guests.
The rangers, that trail and look out for these Rhinos, are always in communication with the guides to tell them their location. We got out of the cars and entered the bush. We trekked a female Rhino called Waribe, who had a calf.
“When a calf is born, the mother separates it from the crash to raise it until it is old and strong enough” Our Guide that day told us.
Rhinos live interesting lives and are territorial. For instance, each one has its own territory marked by its own urine and before you start trekking, they first give you an orientation about about what to do during the trip and how to do it.
Among our instructions was putting our phones in silence since the noise could attract their attention, prompting them to turn violent much as they’re really peaceful animals. You’ll learn alot about Rhinos with a physical visit but to quench your thirst alittle bit, here’s some information you may not know about them.
They’re short sighted animals but to compesante for that, they got acute hearing and a heightened sense of smell. A Rhino will charge if it senses danger, at the cause and not away because they’re not cut for cowardice.
“When you panic, the best remedy is to clib a top a tree. That is how you can guarantee your safety from a disturbed Rhino.” Our guide said.
The Rhino head is the heaviest part of the body, and according to the Rangers, this is what explains why they only eat short grass, as opposed to tree branches and the like. In a day, they require at least 150 kilos of food and drink 60 to 80 litres of water to sustain their approximately three-tonne body.
Male rhinos mature at 10 years old while a female will take six or eight years. The recognised life span of Rhinos is 45 years but some are known to have lived longer.
Ziwa Sanctuary started with just four Rhinos that were got from Kenya and some two more from the United States. Their aim is to restore the species that faced extinction in the 1970’s and 1980’s due to instability and unprecendented poaching.
The sanctuary is located in Nakasongola District and it covers an area of about 70 square kilometers and it’s a non profit project under the Uganda Rhino Fund. There are also a number of activities done in the game reservation area like birding and nature walks. Needless to add, the shoebill stork, one of the most sought after birds in Uganda can be seen at the sanctuary.