Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, a home to 33 white endangered rhinos in Nakitoma sub-county, Nakasongola District is currently out of bounds to tourists and the public following a directive by Uganda Wildlife Authority to have it closed off.
The closure of Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary has left pastoralists and other business operators in a dilemma.
Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, a home to 33 white endangered rhinos in Nakitoma sub-county, Nakasongola District is
currently out of bounds to tourists and the public following a directive by Uganda
Wildlife Authority to have it closed off.
The closure was triggered by a misunderstanding between Ziwa
Rhino and Wildlife Ranches (ZRWR) the owners of the land where Rhinos are being
bred and Rhino Fund Uganda, a non-government organization
which manages the rhinos. Sources say that the misunderstandings arise from the way the
revenues from the tourists are handled, with Ziwa Rhino and Wildlife Ranches saying the Rhino Fund Uganda has failed to
give them a share.
Last week, the Rhino Fund said that Ziwa Rhino and Wildlife Ranches gave them
an order to
leave the land claiming that they had failed to agree with the
landlord. Rhino Fund Uganda also alleges that Ziwa is the one behind
the recent raid on the facility, which came just days after Ziwa had given the
government and the Fund up to April 23, to move the animals
The place is now
guarded by URA rangers. But the closure has left more than 100
pastoralists who have
also been grazing on the sanctuary and other service providers in the
community desperate, as their main source of livelihood, is now
Scovia Aboth, the manager of Kabalega Diner, a stopover
along the Kampala-Gulu highway says that they have been selling food, drinks and
crafts to tourists from the Rhino Sanctuary, and the closure means that their livelihood is threatened.
Rose Namusisi, who owns a restaurant in Nakitoma
trading centre says that most of her customers were staff from the
sanctuary. Namusisi says that apart from restaurants, several bars and
shops were relying on staff employed at the Rhino sanctuary for
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Over 100 staff who are working the sanctuary are in
fear of losing jobs if UWA insists on transferring the rhinos from the
facility. The staff have been working as rangers and guides among others. Some of the rangers told URN that they had acquired
land, constructed houses, initiated development projects and looked after
families from the monthly salaries.
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Since UWA took over security at the sanctuary, pastoralists
who have been grazing over 3,000 head of cattle have been denied access.
Josephine Naiga, a resident of Kikooba village says that she
owns 40 head of cattle and these feed on pasture from within the
Other pastoralists say these
have now resorted to paying 2,000
Shillings daily for each animal to graze on individual farms. The
Pastoralists also accessed water on dams constructed within the
sanctuary for rhinos.
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Ssenyimba, the LC III Chairperson of Nakitoma sub-county says they have
been collecting over six million Shillings from the hotel and Local
Service tax from the sanctuary each financial year. Ssenyimba adds that
through Corporate Social Responsibility, Rhino
Fund has been able to repair boreholes, schools and health centres among
other facilities in the area.
He says that the sub-county tax base has been widening daily as
more business sprung up near the sanctuary. The area leaders, pastoralists and service providers have
asked the government to either reconcile conflicting parties or pay off the
landlord to maintain the sanctuary there for their benefit.
On Wednesday, Rhino Fund Uganda petitioned the High Court in
Kampala seeking an interim order to stay an eviction notice from the sanctuary which
sits on about 62 square kilometres of land owned by Ziwa Rhino and Wildlife
Ranches. Through its Board Chairperson Vincent Opyene, RFU says if an
interim order is not granted, they will suffer irreparable damages.
They say they have invested heavily in terms of infrastructure
development; fencing off the land, putting up sanctuary buildings, road networks, extending electricity and establishing a
school within the sanctuary to serve the neighbouring community. The Civil Division Registrar Jamson Karemani has fixed April
23, 2021 to hear the case.