The Uganda Wild Life Authority (UWA) has taken over security of the endangered White Rhinos species at the Nakasongola-based Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary due to unending disagreements between the two parties managing the country’s sole Rhino sanctuary.
UWA’s intervention comes just days after unknown people descended on the Rhino sanctuary offices and vandalised office equipment including computers and documents last Thursday.
Ziwa Rhino and WildLife Ranches, the owners of the land where the Rhinos are being bred at Nakitoma Sub-county in Nakasongola District, and Rhino Fund Uganda, the organisation that manages the Rhinos, have for the last five years been embroiled in a row over the management of the sanctuary.
Mr Bashir Hangi, the communications manager at UWA, said the authority has beefed up security of the Rhinos at the sanctuary.
“The deployment is in line with UWA’s mandate of protecting wildlife resources in Uganda as per the Uganda Wildlife Act 2019.
UWA is not party to the conflicts between Ziwa Ranchers and Rhino Fund Uganda and we reiterate our impartiality while stressing our mandate as an institution established to protect Uganda’s Wildlife heritage,” Mr Hangi said in an April 16 statement.
UWA further reveals that in the medium and long term, the Rhinos will be translocated to a protected area managed by UWA. In conservation management, translocation refers to intentional movement of plants or animals to a new area.
“Plans are already underway towards achieving this strategy after the completion of a feasibility study to identify the most suitable locations for the introduction of Rhinos and the conditions that need to be met to do so,” Mr Hangi added.
Mr Augustine Mudukoyi, a manager at Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, said the group of people who attacked the sanctuary disguised as tourists.
“They were travelling in a coaster bus. They later descended on the property at the offices using sledge hammers and crow bars. They destroyed office computers and documents. We alerted police which later arrested the group,” Mr Mudukoyi said.
The savannah regional police spokesperson, Mr Issah Ssemogerere, said they have so far arrested 27 people alleged to have destroyed the property.
Ms Angie Genade, the executive director of Rhino Fund, said the attackers targeted the office equipment and documents. “This is very unfortunate, but the matter is being handled by the police,” she said.
Ms Genade said the incident happened as she attended an emergency meeting in Kampala between officials from the Uganda Wildlife, Rhino Fund Uganda and Capt Roy.
Termination of relations
In an interview with the Daily Monitor, the family of Capt Joseph Charles Roy, distanced themselves from the alleged April 15 acts of vandalism, but insisted that they have since terminated relations with the Rhino Fund Uganda and are in the process of repossessing their land.
Capt Roy who is the founder of Ziwa Rhino and Wildlife Ranch (ZRWR) is a retired businessman and flight captain.
“We are not party to the acts of vandalism at the Rhino Sanctuary. It is also true that we are in the process of repossessing our land at Nakitoma Sub-county,” a family member, who preferred anonymity, said.
About the dispute
Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary that is located about 176kms North of Kampala City, was established in 2006 as a protected area for re-introduction of the rear White Rhino family that had become extinct in Uganda. The Rhino Sanctuary that sits on a 16,000 acre land is now at the centre of dispute between the family of Capt Joseph Charles Roy who owns the lease and the management of Rhino Fund Uganda.
In November 2017, Capt Roy terminated the concession with both the Rhino Fund Uganda and D and D Lodges after a disagreement, but Rhino Fund Uganda sought arbitration through court as provided in an earlier agreement between the two parties over the management of the sanctuary.
Daily Monitor has established that at the height of the dispute in February 2019, the parties sought the attention of President Museveni to resolving the matter. The fall out is reported to have resulted from failure to honor the agreement in a concession entered between the two parties on how to share the proceeds from the Rhino Sanctuary and the D and D International Lodges and Restaurant at the sanctuary.
Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary is a home to 33 Rhinos re-introduced in Uganda through a breed and release programme supervised by the Uganda Wildlife but managed by the Rhino Fund Uganda in Nakasongola District. Uganda lost its first indigenous rhino species in 1982 when all the rhino species were completely wiped out through acts of poaching and the wars that ravaged the country. Records from UWA data bank reveal that by 1985, there was no trace of a single rhino at the country’s known protected wildlife areas including the national game parks and game reserves until the re-introduction of the breed and release programme in 2005.