There are a number of tourism attractions that can place Uganda among the top destinations in Africa if they were well harnessed. One of them being the gorillas found in the Bwindi Impenetrable forest in South Western Uganda. The gorillas come in position number two after the big five; the ion, the elephant, the buffalo, the leopard and the rhino.
Unlike the first four that can easily be found in Murchison Falls and the Queen Elizabeth national parks, rhinos in Uganda can only be found at the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary found in central Uganda in Nakasongola, 100km towards northern Uganda.
There has always been a very high demand of the rhino horn which is assumed to cost as much as gold on the black market that saw the rhino come close to extinction in Uganda. Their horns are on demand in China where they are used for various pharmaceutical purposes. In 1997, the government offered 70km2 of the land that was formally occupied by the Ziwa ranch run by the government. The land was gazetted and three white rhinos were imported from the United States and three others from Kenya.
Today, the rhino sanctuary is home to 27 rhinos that have been born to the first six. The sanctuary is home to only white rhinos given that they are friendlier to human beings and easier to look after. However that does not mean that they are harmless. Once provoked they can be dangerous. Rhinos run at a speed of 45km/hr. Their only challenge is that they have a very poor sight. They cannot clearly see where they are going. What they lack in sight, they make up in a very sharp sense of smell and sound.
A fully grown rhino weighs up to 2 tonnes while a baby rhino weighs 45kg. They have a gestation period of 15 months. A female rhino can produce every after two years. An over grown rhino can live up to 50 years of age. Unfortunately, not many of them live up to that time, the farthest most of them live is 45.
There are plans by the government to introduce rhinos in Murchison and Lake Mburo parks. For now they wait till the current population reaches 40 so they can distribute them.
Every time a baby rhino is born, the public is called upon to take part in the naming ceremony. This comes at cost of USD 5000 which is open to individual, families or organisations.
The heavily guarded sanctuary is looked after by the Uganda wildlife Authority. In a day a rhino eats 170 kg of grass and drinks 70 litres of water. When they are feeling hot, they cool off by whirling in pools of mud.
The sanctuary is open to the community who do cattle grazing on the ranch. This is because rhinos and cows can live peacefully together. The cows cut the grass shorter for the rhinos to eat without having to crane their heavy necks.
Other animals on the ranch include the birds and a number of leopards.
The sanctuary is open to tourists at a fee. There is accommodation for the guests that would like to spend a night since it is on the same route to Murchison Falls.
There is an airstrip at the ranch making it easier to access the ranch either by air or road (it is a 4 hours driver).
As narrated by Edward Matovu, a guide at the ranch.