Rhino feeding on at Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary in Nakasongola district
Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) has rejected requests by pastoralists in Nakasongola district to graze their animals inside Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary. More than 100 pastoralists from Nakitoma Sub County have been grazing over 3000 head of cattle inside Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary with permission from Ziwa Rhino and Wildlife Ranches (ZRWR), the owners of the 16,000 acres of land and Rhino Fund Uganda, a non-government organization that has been managing the sanctuary.
The cattle feed on tall grass whereas the rhinos prefer short grass. The pastoralists have also been accessing water from the valley dams constructed for rhinos. However, UWA, which took over the sanctuary because of the misunderstanding between Ziwa Rhino and Wildlife Ranches (ZRWR) and Rhino Fund Uganda, has blocked pastoralists from accessing it leaving them stuck with their animals.
The pastoralists have since appealed to UWA to allow their animals to access pasture since they are not part of the conflicts in vain. Josephine Naiga, a resident of Kikoba village in Nakitoma, says that she has been grazing and watering about 40 cows in the sanctuary. She says that since Nakasongola is a dry area, the availability of free pasture and water for their animals was a great relief to pastoralists.
She, however, says that they are disappointed because of being denied access to the sanctuary because of the conflict.
Samuel Wandira, another pastoralist says that they are currently hiring private land to graze their animals, which he says is costly and unsustainable. He unless UWA grants them access to the sanctuary to graze and water their animals, several pastoralists are likely to sell off their cattle.
Margaret Kisakye, a resident says that several cows may end up trespassing in their gardens as they look for pasture, which may plunge the area into food insecurity. Kisakye says that several people bought cattle because of the availability of free pasture at the sanctuary and are likely to suffer because of the ban.
Bashir Hangi, the Spokesperson of Uganda Wildlife Authority says that the ban is temporary to ensure maximum safety of the Rhinos. He has advised the pastoralists to look for pasture outside the sanctuary until the situation normalizes.
UWA has also blocked tourists from accessing the sanctuary citing the safety of rhinos and managerial challenges. Rhino Fund Uganda has since petitioned the High Court challenging the decision by Ziwa Rhino and Wildlife Ranch Limited and Captain Joseph Charles Roy to evict them from the 62 Square miles where it was managing 33 white rhinos.
Rhino Fund Uganda accuses Ziwa Rhino and Wildlife Ranch Limited and Captain Joseph Charles Roy for breach of contract and cancellation of their license by UWA. There are over 269,000 head of cattle in Nakasongola, according to the district veterinary office. Up to 800 cattle die per year due to severe drought in the district.