Trip Start Dec 23, 2007
244Trip End Ongoing
One of the main goals of the sanctuary is to educate the community "about the urgent need to conserve the rhino, the value of biodiversity in Uganda, the rhino’s place in local and global
ecosystems, the impact of conservation on the community, and the importance of conservation efforts worldwide". However, the bigger problem is poaching.
"A report last year by the World Wildlife Fund, the International Union for Conservation of Nature and wildlife-trade monitoring network TRAFFIC said rhino poaching had reached a 15-year high, pushing the animals close to extinction. About 1,500 rhino horns were traded illegally in the last three years, despite a long-standing ban on international trade. The trade is being driven by Asian demand for horns and is made worse by increasingly sophisticated poachers, who now are using veterinary drugs, poison, cross bows and high caliber weapons to kill rhinos".
Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary strives to protect the rhinos through community education and tourism while at the same time providing a safe sanctuary for rhinos to live and breed. The truth is horrifying. Rhinos are poached for the "medicinal" powers of its horn. When they are killed, only the horn is taken, generally while they are sedated, and they are left to bleed to death! "While this majestic animal's horn is being hacked out of its face with a machete or being cut off with a chain saw, the rhino is fully aware of what is happening to it. The pain it is going through can be compared with the immense pain you would feel if someone was chopping one of your limbs off while you are awake. There are many cases where the rhino carcass is found with tears running down what is left of its face and rhino with chopped off faces have been found wondering around while bleeding to death".
Anyway, education is the key, so passing along the efforts of places such as these is important. Visit http://rhinofund.org if you'd like to know more. :)
So, the sanctuary is a lovely piece of land filled with not just rhinos, but other animals such as cattle, dogs, deer, cranes, etc. We pick up our guide, drive for a bit, then get out and start walking. Eventually we come to where a mother and baby rhino are sleeping...amazed at how close we are! After a few minutes and a few different angles, our guide asks us if we would like to see the male "bull" rhino. When we all say yes, he replies "turn around". And there is this massive rhino about 15 feet behind, silent as the night! He could have literally snuck right up behind us and tapped us on the shoulder with his horn before we knew he was there! And he was BIG - almost 3 meters long and roughly 3,000 pounds! He roamed the area, checking to see if the momma rhino was "awake". When she wasn't giving him any reply, he sauntered off stopping to eat some grass and twigs along the way...at points he was merely 10 feet away with only flimsy tree branches between us and him! Fantastic experience!
On the way back to the van, we sighted a few of the teenager rhinos and hiked over for a look. There were three of them here, just mowing down the grass and paying us no mind, except that they kept creeping closer and closer to us, one within just a few feet! If ever in Uganda, I consider Ziwa a must-visit - if not just for the educational experience, but for the opportunity to be so close to these gargantuan and spectacular animals!
Here is a short video I took of one of the great creatures having lunch: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P67mlhqu8E0
BTW, the last photo is of a poached rhino, so be warned that it is graphic and shocking.