Rhino firm denies cheating government

RHINO Fund Uganda has been named in the probe over mismanagement of a sh70b the World Bank funded project.

In a recent press release, however, the rhino breeding firm denies receiving money from the Government to cater for salaries and training of its staff.

It states that the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) assisted it in recruiting staff before the sanctuary was opened. UWA staff also helped to supervise fencing of the sanctuary and conducting conservation training, the firm adds.

The firm also says apart from sh70m received in 2009 as emergency funding, Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary does not get funding from the trade ministry or UWA and that it does not make any profit.

The sanctuary, which is located in Nakasongola district, was set up for the breeding of rhinos, which had got extinct in Uganda, following civil unrest in the early 1980s.

The statement added that all the rhinos in Uganda were imported by Rhino Fund Uganda, and that UWA and the trade ministry only assisted them with the permits and documentation needed to import the animals.

The commission of inquiry into the Protected Areas Management this month heard that rhinos imported by the wildlife body were making profits for a private farm.

The commission also heard that rhinos were imported in several batches from South Africa, the US and Kenya, starting around 2005, in a pilot project to restock the herds.

However, the firm said the rhinos were imported in only three batches with the first being two rhinos funded by Crane Bank and Sheraton Hotel in 2002. The second lot, it added, were four purchased from Solio Ranch in Kenya in 2006, whose purchase and transportation costs were met by the European Union.

The third lot was two, imported in 2005 from Disney Animal Kingdom in the USA. Disney Animal Kingdom and Disney paid for their transportion, the statement says.

The firm also said none of the UWA officials had shares in the ranches and that the sanctuary was identified for safe breeding, after which the rhinos would be released back into national parks.