RHINO FUND UGANDA 2019 OVERVIEW

White Rhino Grazing

HISTORY

Founding

Rhino Fund Uganda (RFU) was formed as a Non Government Organization (NGO) in 1997 with a management Board of Directors appointed later that year. The function was to oversee and guide the implementation and management of the Rhino Fund Uganda to achieve its aim of reintroducing Rhinoceros, a highly endangered species across the globe, back into the National Parks of Uganda through a breeding and release programme. In essence its purpose has been to return a vital aspect of environmental and cultural heritage to the Ugandan context. This was seen to be an inextricably important ecological link returned following the violent demise of the species in Uganda by 1983.

Out of this emerged a Rhino Sanctuary (Ziwa), 7000 hectares of eminently suitable savannah and native woodlands, which land is privately owned by Captain Joe Roy, a citizen of Uganda. A land usage license was agreed on between RFU and Captain Roy, giving RFU sole usage rights for a period of thirty (renewable) years. The first six rhinos were introduced to this habitat during 2005/6.

Development of Sanctuary

Over the period 2002 to 2018 the following infrastructure was developed:

  1. The sanctuary was fenced off with a 14-strand electrified fence;
  2. Road Network;
  3. Rangers' accommodation;
  4. A rhino holding facility (boma);
  5. Management staff housing;
  6. Administration offices;
  7. Umeme power to Offices (HQ) and Amuka Lodge
  8. 3 additional dams bringing total to 9 dams within
  9. School for community and rangers children
White Rhino Grazing

Vision

To repopulate Uganda’s National Parks with White and Black rhinoceros.

Mission

To apply sound conservation principles whereby a safe environment is created in which rhinos can be conserved for future generations. In addition, through conservation education and community upliftment programmes, win the hearts and minds of the surrounding communities, as well as Uganda as a whole, to ensure their support of this rhino conservation and reintroduction programme.

Personnel Training

After completing the essential infrastructure, the first personnel were sent to complete a training course through Uganda Wildlife Authority, facilitated by the Ugandan Peoples Defence Force. The course duration was three months and after completion the rangers were deployed on the Sanctuary. Although all our rangers are given in-situ Rhino monitoring and Data collection training, through the years, new staff have been employed who are in need of formal basic ranger training.

Community Development

In order to get the community involved in the rhino programme, various skills development courses were given to private individuals that live in the immediate communities. Bee keeping, fuel-saving oven construction courses were presented on an ongoing basis.

Community Education Programme

A section of RFU personnel was trained on presenting conservation awareness training to the communities surrounding the sanctuary. The entire community was reached over a period of time and success was evident, especially amongst the school children.

OVERVIEW - CURRENT

Founding Members

Dr Eve Abe
Mr Tom Buringuriza
Mr Kenneth Bataringaya
Dr Gladys Kalema
Mr David Abura
Ms Jane Adong Anywar
East African Wildlife Society
Wildlife Clubs of Uganda
Uganda Wildlife Education Centre

Board Members

Chairman, Andrew Lemieux (NSCR)
Vice Chairman, Daudi Makobore (BMac & Walker Consultants)
Member, Comm'r Sagal Abram (Uganda Police)
Member, Tim de Wet (Umoja Group)
Member, Joseph Kusaga (Media House owner)
Member, Anne-Marie Weeden (UCF)
Member, Opyene Vincent (Advocate)
Secretary, Angie Genade (Executive Director RFU)

Ex Officio Board Members

* Dirk ten Brink - Honorary Member (Company Director, Foursquare Ltd)
* Jacob Manyindo – Honorary Member (Coordinator, Maendeleo ya Jamii)
* Bill Pelser – Honorary Member (Businessman)
* Wolfgang Thome – Honorary Member (Private Sector)
* Comm'r of Wildlife (Ministry Tourism Wildlife & Antiquities)
* Executive Director (Uganda Wildlife Authority)
* Capt Joe Roy (CEO Ziwa Rhino & Wildlife Ranch Ltd)

Technical Advisors

Dr Felix Patton - Rhino Ecologist
Dr Pete Morkel - Specialist Rhino Veterinary
Dr Petra Campbell - Data & Mapping Specialist
Mr Raymond Victurine - Conservation Finance
Ms Anasta Kamahoro - Labor Attorney

Management Structure

Rhino Fund Uganda comprises of three levels of management:

  1. Board of Directors;
  2. Executive Director;
  3. Sanctuary Departmental Managers;

Management

Appointed Departmental Manager manages the following departments:

  1. Security / Operations;
  2. Human Resource;
  3. Administration;
  4. Finance;
  5. Education;
  6. Deployment / Wildlife Guiding;
  7. Maintenance;

When RFU came into existence, their aim was broadly described as "to create a sanctuary where rhinos can breed, with the aim of releasing them back into the wild". Albeit true, a more effective conservation approach has been taken, describing their aim as creating a secure environment, where rhinos can breed, forming a nucleus-breeding herd, from which groups of rhinos can be translocated into the Ugandan National parks.

Breeding Programme

After the first six rhinos were translocated in 2005/6 (3 male & 3 female), a period of four years elapsed before the first calf was born in June 2009. Subsequent to the first rhino’s birth, twenty one more were born in regular intervals, with the last one on the 19th April 2019. Of the twenty two calves, one 4 year old male succumbed to injuries sustained while being chased by the dominant bull. Currently there are 27 rhino on the sanctuary - sixteen are male and eleven are female. Mating is ongoing, promising further additions to the group. One interesting aspect that transpired, was the inter-calve interval, being close on to two-years; this very short interval can only be explained as due to a safe environment and excellent grazing throughout the year.

SECURITY

Due to the high risk of poaching, security is one aspect which is undertaken as a matter of utmost and vital importance. The approach to this aspect is holistic, and better described under the following headings:

Rhinos Grazing While Being Guarded

1. Physical Security Measures

Effective communication is key in any security system. A two-way radio system, with two booster repeating systems ensures effective communication throughout as well as outside the sanctuary. All deployed personnel and vehicles are equipped with radios. A reputable company has been appointed to maintain the system as well as to up-grade when required.

As mentioned, the sanctuary is enclosed with a 14-strand electrified fence, which is regularly patrolled by rangers on foot as well as on motorcycle. These rangers also patrol the other sections of the sanctuary on a 24/7 basis.

2. Training

Ongoing training of all personnel is regarded a key maintaining a high level of competency and also keeping abreast of the ever-changing threats and modus operandi of criminal activities. Currently Rhino Ecologist, Dr. Felix Paton and the RFU Security & Operations Manager are the two major role-players in this department, who follow an annual training programme.

3. Rhino Monitoring

Rangers on a 24/7 basis closely monitor all rhinos. These ranger monitors work according to a carefully compiled duty roster, so as to prevent creating any kind of routine. The rangers are also equipped with two-way radios and report to the radio control centre on an hourly basis, or when a situation arises where reporting is required. The close monitoring of the rhino and recording of data and rhino behaviour has enabled Rhino Fund Uganda to submit and have published 3 scientific papers in the Pachyderm Scientific Journal.

4. Informant Network

A vital aspect of any security system is the formation and maintenance of a well-placed informant network. Experienced members of the organization are in charge of this function, which has proven to be very effective over the past number of years. Utmost care is given to maintain the status quo of this network.

5. Anti-Poaching

The protection of the rhino is RFU’s primary aim and secondary to that is the protection of all other wildlife. To this extent, RFU is working closely with UWA and has taken upon them to fulfil anti-poaching functions outside the sanctuary as well. The reasons for this extended function are as follow:

  1. The most likely threat of rhino poaching will originate from outside the sanctuary; poachers from the area, who know the area and the people intimately, are the likely ones to be contracted to poach rhino. By neutralizing their poaching operations, RFU is minimizing this threat,

  2. RFU has been sensitizing the surrounding community regarding wildlife conservation. By putting action to words, is the most effective way to curb poaching of wildlife.

  3. More often than not poaching is done by individuals who live in far-away areas, entirely for commercial purposes. By addressing wildlife poaching, RFU is assisting the community who are willing to conserve the wildlife in their areas.
Leopard Lying on Green Grass

Business Plan

Due to the international financial crises and the fact that funders and donors normally do not fund on a long-term basis, all external funding had ceased by 2008. This state of affairs has moved the Executive Director of RFU to re-evaluate the sources of income and to devise a redirected business plan. Recognising the potential of the Sanctuary as a tourism destination, the plan was based on increasing the number of tourists to the sanctuary. As the financial position was extremely dire at that point in time, funding a marketing strategy was not possible. Thus, with limited means and clever improvisation, various methods were primarily used to showcase the sanctuary directly to all the safari tour operators, corporate companies and various other organizations in Uganda. This led to a gradual increase is visitor numbers from the onset. In conjunction with this marketing effort, the accommodation, restaurant and bar facilities were upgraded to encourage visitors to stay on the sanctuary for longer periods; this also had the desired effect and further increased the visitor numbers.

Below are the figures for visitors who took part in On Foot Rhino Trekking each year:

#PeriodTotal Visitors
a)2006441
b)20071427
c)20082223
d)20094945
e)20108097
f)20119479
g)201211051
h)201312629
i)201411202
j)201510309
k)201612087
l)201715941
m)201818809
Rhino Fund Uganda Paid Activity Statistics

The increase in visitor numbers meant a parallel increase in income. However, funding is still required and our fundraising efforts continue.

Human Resource

In 2007 RFU employed 23 people. Due to increase operations this number has increased to 160 in 2018 of which 14 are female.

SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY PROGRAMMES

Rhino Fund Uganda regards the involvement of the surrounding communities as a vital part to the success of the rhino programme and has embarked on various upliftment, education and socio-economic programmes that involve the entire community to benefit directly from the success of the rhino conservation programme.

"Hakuna Matata" School

Not only does RFU provide housing accommodation for their staff, but for their families as well. This has lead to a situation where children are looked after

by child-minders at home, due to the far distances from formal schools in the district. Therefore RFU renovated an existing building and equipped it to be utilized as a nursery school. Following the Uganda Education Department’s curriculum guidelines, four qualified Ugandan teachers were employed by RFU to staff the school and teach the children. Fifty-five applicants were selected, forty-five from RFU staff and the remaining ten from the community bordering the sanctuary. The results from the children's reports has proven the school to be a major success. Being in their optimum formative years, it is indeed a programme that RFU is extremely proud of. During 2013 Primary 1 & 2 classes added and the school now accommodates 120 students comprising of 10% staff children and 90% community children.

Hakuna Matata School
Herd of Cattle

Cattle Programme

All the neighbours bordering the Sanctuary are cattle farmers. Up to mid 2009 the neighbouring cattle farmers used to cut the perimeter fence on a regular basis, to allow their cattle to graze on the sanctuary. This was done due to poor grazing conditions on their own lands, and very little water, especially during the dry seasons. This state of affair caused a serious security risk, unnecessary repair expenses as well as continued friction between the cattle owners and RFU Management. Instead of taking the normal law-enforcement route as a solution to the problem, the RFU ED recognised an opportunity to embrace the needs of the community and by solving the source of the problem, created an excellent working- and trust relationship with the sanctuary’s neighbours. An agreement was entered into between RFU and all the individual farmers, in conjunction with the local leaders and law enforcement agencies, whereby the farmers are allowed to graze their cattle on the sanctuary.

The agreement stipulated stringent regulations and up to date has been honoured by all the parties involved. The outcome of this agreement has led to the following:

  • Damage to the perimeter fence has ceased;
  • The condition of the cattle, due to good grazing, has improved considerably. This has led to a dramatic increase in prices the cattle fetch on the bi-weekly local market;
  • The risk of bush-fires has greatly been reduced;
  • Due to monitored cattle pest control measures applied by the farmers, pests on the sanctuary are mitigated at the same time;
  • The grazing has been shortened on the majority of the sanctuary, which suits the grazing habits of the rhino a lot more than tall grass;
  • Most importantly, excellent relations between RFU and its neighbours, who make up the "first line of defence" in terms of rhino and personnel security;

Student Support

Students from various tertiary institutions are using the Sanctuary as a basis for field studies and practical studies:

  1. Makerere University;
  2. Kasese Tourism and Hospitality Training Institute;
  3. Private International Volunteer Students;

These students are granted permission to undertake their study programmes on the sanctuary free of charge, only covering direct costs incurred by the hospitality department. The agreement stipulates that RFU has joint ownership of the results of studies that were done. For International students a volunteer programme was created and now also contributes to part of RFU's annual income.

Over and above this, Rhino Fund recognised the need of various under-privileged orphan school students who are older than sixteen years of age and had fallen behind their formal school years due to the lack of funds. These students were given the opportunity to do unskilled and semi-skilled labour on the sanctuary during the school holidays, enabling them to work and pay for their studies. Without fail, all the 14 students that were embraced in this programme have excelled in their studies and one school-leaver has been granted a study bursary by a college in Kampala. The rest are still at school and have all achieved above-average results. Any short fall of funds needed to pay their school fees was contributed directly to the school by RFU.

Education and Assistance

School groups are welcomed to the Sanctuary at no cost. Our staff spend time with the children explaining conservation and the need to respect not only wild animals but domestic and farm animals as well. All children are taken for rhino trekking to see rhino in their natural habitat. Animal puppets and our rhino costume are used to keep the children entertained.

Our volunteer groups also visit neighbouring schools and communities with our staff and perform Conservation Education Puppet shows in our drive to sensitise communities.

Human / Animal Conflict

As our population grows we have no option but to encroach on animal habitat. This is a problem faced throughout Africa. Rhino Fund has a team of rangers that have been trained by Uganda Wildlife Authority in Crocodile capture. When a settlement or village experiences a problem with crocodile or python catching their domestic animals or livestock, we are contacted to capture and relocate such animals. Rhino Fund receives calls with regards to any wildlife issues from as far as Luweero and Masindi. Crocodiles captured are released at Karuma and any other wildlife captured are released onto the sanctuary.

Water Supply

One crucial and basic human right is access to water and therefore RFU has made it its mission to supply all employees and their families with clean drinking water. Through efforts made by RFU, corporate and private involvement was obtained and four boreholes on the sanctuary has been renovated and restored and supplies three sections of communities on the sanctuary. However, two more boreholes are required to supply the whole community with water. RFU also maintains 2 boreholes within the community and repairs any breakages to ensure a continued water supply to the community.

caging-a-crocdile

School and Church Support

After evaluating the requests and requirements, the following institutions in Nakitoma, which falls within the same sub-county as the Sanctuary, were assisted:

  1. Nakitoma Secondary School was given funds to complete their laboratory building and roof;

  2. The local church in Nakitoma was assisted with funds to complete the building’s roof;

  3. The Lord Care Primary was assisted in funds to complete their school building and roof;

As part of RFU’s international student volunteer programme, volunteer teachers on a regular basis assist both schools as well as Hakuna Matata School. These costs are covered by RFU.

Amuka Lodge Sign-Post

Amuka Lodge

Forming part of RFU's business plan is the development of Amuka Lodge, a privately built and owned safari lodge that is located within the heart of the sanctuary. The aim of the lodge is to attract clients from a higher income bracket, thereby offering significant revenue earning opportunities to help cover the cost of the sanctuary. An assistance agreement has been formalized between the owners of Amuka Lodge and Rhino Fund Uganda, which will take RFU one step closer to their ultimate goal – sustainability.

Lugogo Wetlands Project

Forming part of the sanctuary’s border is a ten kilometre swamp wetlands, called Lugogo Swamp. This swamp is an integral part of the eco-system and is home to a multitude of game and birds, including the rare and endangered Shoebill Stork. RFU has joined hands with the community more especially the canoe men and use their services for taking tourists onto the swamp. The community in this area are benefiting from RFU taking tourists on guided birding and swamp hikes and it is foreseen that this activity will gain popularity due to the presence of the shoebill and a wide range of other birds.

The woman's group in this community also supply RFU with hand-made crafts which we purchase from them and sell in the craft shop on the sanctuary. During 2016, 2017 & 2018, Rhino Fund with this community cleaned the swamp of an overgrowth of Salvinia. This has created a more suitable habitat for many more bird species and enables the community to move through the swamp with their cattle as well as have access to cleaner water.

Sailing on Canoe

FUTURE DEVELOPMENT PROJECTS

Rhino Conservation Programme

Apart from applying general conservation principles, one major aspect of any wildlife-breeding programme is management of genetic diversity. To this end RFU is required to import additional female rhinos from a different source as apposed to where the founder herd originated. The Northwest Parks and Tourism Board in South Africa was requested in March 2011 to donate six rhino females to the Sanctuary. They recognised RFU’s plight and approved the request; the fulfilment of their pledge is currently subject to political approval, which is eagerly awaited for by both parties, as international relationships will find tremendous advantages in such a partnership. Bolstering the current number of breeding females on the Sanctuary will have the following advantages:

Offloading Rhinos Cargo
  1. An accelerated breeding programme;
  2. Genetic diversity;
  3. Less fighting for dominance amongst the adult bulls, reducing the risk of injury, or death;
  4. Reducing the time frame for eventual release of rhino in Uganda’s National parks;
  5. Increasing tourism value, that will lead to an increase in revenue;
  6. Due to the publicity that will form part of the translocation, public awareness of RFU’s vital programme will be showcased on Uganda’s media, leading to a wider awareness among the Ugandan population;

Introducing Eastern Black rhino to the Sanctuary remains part of the planning. Eastern Black Rhino are more endangered and Rhino Fund Uganda will pursue this once the funding to not only move these rhino but to sustain them and ensure their security is in place. As the rhino boma has not been used for some years, this would also have to be renovated and upgraded.

Premitive Poaching Tools

Anti-Poaching Unit (APU)

With the ever-increasing demand for bush meat and rhino horn, coupled with the increased publicity RFU is receiving in the media, it has become vital to establish a well-trained and effective anti-poaching unit (APU). The primary function of the APU will be the protection of the rhino on the sanctuary. To achieve this, their area of operations will include the surrounding communities, where poaching for the bush meat trade is rife and on the increase. With 50% of Uganda’s wildlife being on the outside of protected areas like national parks and conservancies, this trade will continue to exist for as long as there is wildlife present in the rural community large. By and large the APU will operate in a pro-active manner and in conjunction with RFU’s Community Conservation Sensitization Programme, will be responsible to mitigate the poaching threat outside as well as inside the sanctuary. We are continuing our efforts to raise the necessary funds for this APU complete with equipment and vehicles.

Ranger Academy of Excellence

Rhino Fund has donors interested in building and funding a Ranger academy of Excellence on the sanctuary. The vision of this academy is to provide specialist training to all rangers in Uganda and neighbouring countries.

Conservation Camp School

Hearing the request from various International schools in Kampala, developing an "Adventure Conservation School Camp" form part of RFU's future plans. This school will mainly cater for students that will undergo training and guidance in wildlife conservation, leadership and various other subjects.

Expansion of "Hakuna Matata" School

After opening the school, the demand from the community increased dramatically, and the need for expansion became apparent. RFU plans to construct an additional three buildings, to be able to increase the number of learners to one hundred and twenty including a P3 class. . In addition to the classrooms, two buildings will function as bathrooms and kitchen facility. An additional teacher will also be employed.

Ranger Accommodation Upgrade

80% of our staff along with their families are accommodated on the Sanctuary. Most of these buildings have been upgraded.

Motor Vehicles and Motor Cycles

The vehicles currently being used by Rhino Fund Uganda for all the work we do inside and outside of the sanctuary are old and their maintenance costs extremely high. All our vehicles need to be replaced with good second hand vehicles.

Road Maintenance

Although we continuously maintain the roads within the sanctuary, there are swamps within the sanctuary that cut off access to parts of the sanctuary during the rain seasons. Most of these roads have now been built up with culverts. This will has eased the movement of neighbouring communities on market days (that pass through the sanctuary) and enables access to ranger outposts and large areas on the sanctuary all year round.

Community Cattle-Grazing Programme

An outflow of the cattle-grazing programme was an increased number of cattle being sold on the local cattle market. Unfortunately the conditions in the market, in terms of holding pens and loading facilities have remained appalling. RFU wishes to get involved and provide the community assistance in upgrading the market facilities, by constructing effective holding pens and loading facilities. This will enable the cattle owners and keepers to treat their animals in a humane manner and thereby improving the general condition of the animals when they reach their end destination.

Although we have reached many successes and will continue to do so, Rhino Fund Uganda still sources funding in our efforts to maintain the success and growth of the Sanctuary and the Uganda Rhino Reintroduction Programme.