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UWA, Ziwa in Negotiations to Manage Rhino Sanctuary

The Uganda Wildlife Authority-UWA is in talks with Ziwa Rhino and Wildlife Ranch on the fate and future of the rhinos at the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary in Nakasongola District.

This follows the withdrawal of a case last week filed by the Rhino Fund Uganda, which was managing the facility, against Ziwa Rhino and Wildlife Ranches for alleged breach of contract.

The suit was instituted after a 7-day notice by the owner of the land, to RFU to vacate the land, on grounds that UWA, had cancelled the contract with the Fund, which was looking after the 33 Southern White Rhinos.

UWA had in the meantime taken over the security of the rhinos and closed the sanctuary to tourists and the general public citing security threats to the animals arising from the conflict. It is said the differences between the Fund and the landlord arose from failed negotiations over revenue sharing.

This conflict came a year before the date that was recommended by a feasibility study into the possible relocation of the rhinos onto national parks, meaning the government, through UWA have to find quick solutions to their survival.

The government imported the two rhinos from South Africa 15 years ago more than two decades after they had become extinct in Uganda, and Ziwa offered to lease the land to UWA and the Rhino Fund at no cost.

UWA Executive Director, Sam Mwandha says they did their best to ensure the URF and Ziwa Ranches reach a peaceful solution but they have failed to reconcile.

Mwandha says that in two weeks’ time UWA will have decided when tourism activities at the facility will reopen.

By the 1950s, Uganda’s rhino population was about 700, consisting of about 400 Eastern Black (Diceros biconis michalei) mostly in Kidepo Valley National Park and Murchison Falls National park and 300 Northern White rhinos (Ceratotheriun simum cottoni) mainly in Murchison Falls National park.

The northern white rhino was last seen in 1982 in Murchison Falls National Park while the last eastern black rhino was last seen in 1983 in Kidepo Valley National Park, with this attributed to the turbulent politics between the late 1970s and the early 1980s.

The government also have longer-term plans to re-introduce the black rhino into the country and is looking at either Kenya or Europe as the options from which to import the rhinos, which will be introduced in Murchison Falls National Park.

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