Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary : Planning a short trip in Uganda or a long safari vacation in Uganda and would like to see the Rhinos you should know that the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary is the only place to see them in the wild in Uganda. The Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary is a breeding program for Rhinos in Uganda that intends to reintroduce Rhinos back into Uganda’s wild. These are dark days for the rhinos all over the continent. Uganda was home to thousands of Rhinos until the war years of 1970s along with excessive hunting and poaching, which saw the country’s last wild rhino in Murchison shot in 1983.

Rhinos were re-introduced into Uganda in 2005 22 September by Rhino Fund Uganda. Southern White rhinos are now being bred again in the 70 km² Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary. A team of approximately 90 park rangers and security guards keep a 24-hour watch on the rhinos here to ensure their safety. The sanctuary is surrounded by a 2 meters (6.6 ft.) electric fence to keep the rhinos in and the intruders out.

Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary
Rhino Tracking

The mission for Uganda wild rhino is to reintroduce small herds of rhinos (around five at a time), whilst retaining a nucleus breeding herd in the sanctuary. Rhinos are hunted for their horns.  The horns are made into handles for daggers and swords in places such as Yemen and ground into medicine in China. A pound of Rhino Horn can cost over 50,000 USD. In Uganda it is only in ziwa where these lovely creatures can be found.

The Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary covers 70 square kilometers of predominantly acacia dominated woodlands, with a mix up of thickets, grasslands and swamps & ponds. At the time of writing this piece (March 2014) the sanctuary had 13 White Rhinos species. The first six Rhinos at the sanctuary were donated by Kenya (4) and United States (2). These have been reproducing over the years, plus new Rhinos are brought in by the authority. The sanctuary is protected by an electric wall fence and no poaching has ever been recorded at the sanctuary.

Other Wildlife of Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary

Other than the Rhinos, Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary is home to an array of wildlife, including up to 26 mammal species. The woodlands & thickets harbor game such as Leopard, Aardvark, Duiker, Oribi, Bushbuck, Waterbuck, Uganda Kob, Pangolin, Colubus & Vervet Monkey, and Mongoose. The big swamps  have Hippos, and Crocodiles. Valley dams have been constructed to supplement the available water sources and to cater for the rapidly increasing game at the sanctuary. They have also become habitats for crocodiles and other water wildlife.

For the avid bird watcher, the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary cannot be overlooked if you are panning birding safari in Uganda. The sanctuary is very rich with woodland, grassland and some water birds at the swamps & valley dams. Up to 351 species of birds have been recorded so far. Your checklist will include among others: Meyer’s Parrot (Brown Parrot), Ruppell’s Long-tailed Starling, Woodland Kingfisher, Fork-tailed Kingfisher, Butler Eagle, Martial Eagle, Gabar Goshawk, Levaillants Cuckoo, Purple-banded Sunbird, Black-headed Gonolek, African Thrush, Double-toothed Barbet, African Grey Hornbill, Common Bulbul, Green-winged Pytilia. The Lugogo Swamp which is the biggest of the swamps at the sanctuary is good for the Shoebill and a good number waders and water birds.

Activities to do at the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary

Rhino Tracking

Rhino tracking is the main activity at the sanctuary. It involves trekking through the thickets to find the rhinos, and this activity normally lasts between two to three hours. The trek starts from the sanctuary headquarters accompanied by an armed ranger that is assigned by the sanctuary authority. The rangers are very knowledgeable guides that will brief you on the safety precautions before trekking and also feed you with valuable information about Rhinos and wildlife of the sanctuary. The White Rhinos, the only species of rhinos at the sanctuary, by nature are not as violent & aggressive compared to their counterparts the Black Rhinos. Hence there is little chance of a rhino attack as long as you observe the tracking guidelines as shall be laid out by your guide.

Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary

Birding at Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary

Birding at Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary involves driving the dirt truck observing the edges of the woodland, and thereafter hike into the woodlands and bushes, scanning the vegetation for birds. Explore the swamps and valley dams for some water birds, and good chance to catch the Shoebill. A Shoebill canoe ride is available at Lugogo Swamp in the sanctuary. Note that for a better chance to see the Shoebill the Mabamba wetlands are so the most best birding spot.  Ziwa has knowledgeable bird guides/rangers who can identify over 350 species at the sanctuary. For just 4 – 5 hours, you can accumulate a list of up to 100 species out of the possible total 351 at the sanctuary.

Game viewing

You will drive on the tracks and walk the trails through the bushes for a chance to view lots of animals up close. It is a prerequisite to take along an armed ranger from the sanctuary headquarters who knows the best trails for the best wildlife experience. Antelopes such as Bushbucks, Duiker, Oribi, and Uganda Kob are in plenty.

The things you need for rhino tracking

 Long pants, socks and closed toe shoes, insect spray and drinking water.

You will then have a chance to watch the rhinos in the wild at a very close and very safe, point. The park has however fences and has no predators. Still, you will see them without fences, without collars and full grown horns.  This is a one kind of amazing experience that you will long remember. These creatures are magnificent – you have a chance to watch them at a close range while grazing. Your guide is there to keep you safe from harm so listening to the safety briefing he gives you is very important.

Tracking excursions are twice a day – 8am to 10am or 4pm to 6pm and lasts 1½ – 2½ hours – depending the on location of the rhinos  not very strict timings as it is usually available all day. Best time for trekking is however in the morning when all the rhinos are up and active. Let’s save the amazing creatures as well enjoy sighting them.

How to get to Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary

Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary is about 3-hour drive from Kampala, nearly halfway to Murchison Falls Park. The Sanctuary is a collaborative effort between Rhino Fund Uganda a none profit and the Uganda Wildlife Authority, of rebuilding the Rhinoceros population in Uganda. join in on  Uganda safari as we save these stunning wild creatures to save them.

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