Uganda’s white rhino population climbs to 20

The latest birth is the 15th at Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary since it was opening more than 10 years ago.

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 PIC: The newly-born male rhino relaxes with its mother. (Credit: Frederick Kiwanuka)


The population of the highly endangered white rhinos in Uganda has shot up to 20 following the birth of a male calf at the Nakasongola-based Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary last week.

Ange Genade, the South African executive director of Rhino Fund Uganda, the NGO which runs the sanctuary, said that the male calf was born to 18-year-old Nandi (mother) and 17-year-old Moja (father).

Genade said the latest birth, which is Nandi’s fifth calf, is the 15th since the sanctuary was opened more than a decade ago. She said another birth is expected to take place this month.

Rhino Fund, which has been running the 7,000-hectare Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, aims at re-introducing the highly endangered rhinos in Uganda's national parks through a breed-and-release program.

Initially, six breeding rhinos were brought in from USA and Kenya.

An excited Genade said the number of rhinos at the sanctuary had in a period of only 13 years increased to 20 from the original six that were imported into the country.

She said the short calve interval was due to the safe environment and excellent grazing throughout the year.

Genade however noted that there is need to source for more breeding females so as to accelerate the breeding program and reduce the time framework for the eventual release of rhinos into Uganda’s national parks.

Rhinos had become extinct in Uganda as a result of poaching and the wars which left many of them killed both for meat and their horns.

In 2015, the rhinos at the sanctuary underwent a major operation by specialist staff from the Uganda Wildlife Authority, Kenya Wildlife Service and Rhino Fund Uganda, to increase the chances of getting a conviction for any person involved in rhino poaching and the illegal horn trade. 

The procedure entailed anaesthetizing the rhinos to implant microchips in the horns and beneath their skin.  Each rice grain-sized chip carried a unique bar code.

Following the operation, if a rhino was to get poached and the horn recovered thousands of kilometers away, the chips could be scanned and matched to those under the skin of the poached carcass to prove it was obtained illegally.

This indisputable evidence would then be used to convict the smugglers and traders involved. 

According to rhino experts, many poachers and traders of illegal rhino horn have escaped conviction due to a lack of evidence that the courts would accept as being beyond reasonable doubt.

Microchips help in creating the necessary evidence chain in a timely way as you just need to scan the chip to get an immediate result.