The Rhino Fund Uganda, a duly registered NGO, has taken exception to the blatant misrepresentation and factual errors floated in the Ugandan media in regard to statements allegedly made before the current ongoing Commission of Enquiry, headed by Rtd. Justice Kanyeihamba, which is tasked to look into the use of the so called 'Pamsu Funds' under a major project deal financed by the World Bank.

As a result this poor reporting, which was producing and peddling headlines like 'Government cheated in Rhino deal', has caused concern amongst the Rhino Fund's supporters, their donors and development partners, prompting the Executive Director of the RFU, which first created and now manages the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, to put all the relevant facts on the table for everyone to see and to correct false impressions given by media reports circulating first in Uganda before being without any critical study reproduced abroad again 'as fact printed in the local newspapers'.

This correspondent, having been chairman of the RFU during the critical years before, during and after the establishment of the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, unconditionally supports Angie Genade's statement, which represents all correct fact and details to the best recollection of the author.

Most notably, the RFU finances were and are regularly audited by competent and fully established audit firms approved to work with the Ugandan authorities, and at no time during this correspondent's term of office between 2002 and 2008 were these accounts not meeting the standards our donors expected when disclosing the use of their funding.

It is also in order to once again thank Capt. Joe Roy and his company Ziwa Ranchers Limited for their outstanding contribution to wildlife conservation in Uganda, having granted RFU an initial 30 years land use right to establish the Rhino Sanctuary. Here below is the full text as distributed and published by RFU.

PRESS RELEASE BY RHINO FUND UGANDA – 19 MAY 2011

THIS STATEMENT IS MADE BY THE RHINO FUND UGANDA EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

By way of this press release, Rhino Fund Uganda, Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary wishes to correct the media with regards to the invalid, untrue and derogatory statements currently being published by the media.

We therefore request that this statement is also published by so doing informing the public of the truth pertaining to the Uganda rhino reintroduction program

  • Rhino Fund Uganda : Is a registered NGO.

  • Co-founders of Rhino Fund Uganda : Ray Victurine, Rob Brett and Eve Lawino Abe in 1997.

  • Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary : Land 7000ha generously sponsored by Capt Joe Roy at no cost on a 30 year land use rights to Rhino Fund Uganda.

  • Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary is the place that Rhino Fund Uganda operates from and runs the Uganda rhino reintroduction program and is a Public Private Partnership. Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary has since been registered as Ziwa Rhino and Wildlife Ranch and is in possession of the necessary license from UWA for user rights.

Abbreviations:

  • RFU – Rhino Fund Uganda
  • ZRS – Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary
  • ZRWR – Ziwa Rhino and Wildlife Reserve
  • ZR – Ziwa Ranchers
  • MTTI – Minister Trade Tourism and Industry
  • UWA – Uganda Wildlife Authority
  • UWEC – Uganda Wildlife Education Centre
  • EU – European Union

Project summary

Resulting from many meetings and discussions between RFU, MTTI and UWA, starting in 1998,  it was mutually agreed and approved that RFU starts and manages the rhino reintroduction program in Uganda.

With support from numerous organizations and independent donors, a 7,000 ha breeding sanctuary for black and white rhinoceros was established by RFU.  This sanctuary was named Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary and  is centrally located in Uganda and at present, is home to nine Southern White Rhinos.

HISTORY OF RHINO IN UGANDA

Both Black and White rhinoceros were present in Uganda – the Eastern Black in the North and Northwest, and the Northern White in the Northwest on the west bank of the river Nile. After the years of civil unrest, the rhino became extinct in Uganda in 1983.

BACKGROUND OF TRANSLOCATIONS

  • Two White rhinos were successfully translocated from Kenya 2002.  These two rhino are at UWEC in Entebbe for educational purposes.
  • Four Southern White Rhino arrived from Solio ranch in Kenya in July 2005.
  • Two Southern White Rhino arrived from Disney Animal Kingdom in Florida, USA in September 2006.
  • During 2009 and 2010 three rhino calves were born on Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary.

OBJECTIVES

  • To successfully breed rhino on Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary
  • When the breeding nucleus herd is large enough release excess rhino back into the National Parks in Uganda
  • Become self sustained
  • Add value to the tourists experience in Uganda by offering on foot rhino tracking.

BENEFITS

  • We currently employ 110 Ugandan staff members
  • Have a cattle feeding program for local farmers
  • Have an education program for Ugandan school children
  • Assist UWA with anti poaching efforts
  • Sensitizing in our district with regards to conservation and poaching is ongoing
  • Facilitate security meetings in our district
  • Work closely with local leaders and community
  • Have created a new tourist activity with on foot rhino tracking

GENERAL

The success of  Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary will play the key role in the eventual re-introduction of rhino back into the wild in Uganda’s National Parks. This will boost tourism on a national level, as it will provide facilities to attract tourists and visitors, enhancing Uganda as a tourist destination. Being one of the Big Five, the rhinoceros represents a welcome addition to safari itineraries.

RESPONSE TO  STATEMENTS IN NEWSPAPERS

Statement in Media – THE white and black rhinos imported by the Uganda Wild Life Authority (UWA) are making profits for a private farm and not the Government, an inquiry has heard.

RFU response – All the rhino in Uganda were imported by Rhino Fund Uganda.  UWA and MTTI assisted with the permits and documentation needed to import these animals.

Statement in Media – The rhinos were imported in several batches from South Africa, the US and Kenya, starting around 2005. It was a pilot project to restock the herds that had been extinct.

RFU response – The rhino were imported in three batches namely :

  • The first two rhino that were imported were funded by Crane Bank (rhino named Kabira) and Sheraton Hotel (rhino named Sherino).  These two rhino arrived in Uganda in 2002 and were placed at UWEC for education purposes.  The two rhino are still at UWEC.  No money was received from Government, MTTI or UWA for the purchase, transportation or import of these two rhino.
  • The second lot of rhino, were four rhino purchased from Solio Ranch in Kenya in 2006.  The purchase and the transportation of these rhino was paid for by the European Union.  No money was received from Government, MTTI  or UWA
  • The third lot of rhino, were two rhino imported to Uganda in 2005 from Disney Animal Kingdom in the USA.  These two rhino were donated to RFU by Disney Animal Kingdom and Disney paid for the cost of transporting these rhino to Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary.  No money was received from Government, MTTI or UWA.

Ziwa rhino sanctuary is not a pilot project but a sanctuary for the natural breeding of rhino.  The mutual agreement between MTTI, UWA and RFU was that there should be a breeding stock of at least twenty rhino on Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary and that the parks should be safe and secure enough with staff well trained in rhino conservation and monitoring before any rhino will be released back into the National Parks.  

This is a long term project taking into consideration that the gestation period of a rhino is 16 months, and the releasing of rhino back into the National Parks is a process that needs to be approved by the African Rhino Specialist Group as well as the East African Rhino Specialist Group.  Even when the rhino release starts, the breeding stock should remain at Ziwa rhino sanctuary for a secure ongoing breeding project.

Statement in Media – The rhinos were put on Zziwa Ranch, a 70sq. km expanse which later became Zziwa Rhino Sanctuary, as a holding ground until UWA prepared a safe place for them in the wild.

RFU response – Ziwa rhino sanctuary was never a temporary project or holding facility for rhino.  It is a sanctuary for the safe breeding of this highly endangered animal which would later enable Rhino Fund Uganda in conjunction with UWA to release young rhino back into the National Parks. Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary was later licensed with UWA as Ziwa Rhino and Wildlife Ranch.

Statement in Media – The sanctuary, initially a ranch, is owned by Captain Roy Magara.

RFU response – The land that Ziwa Rhino sanctuary / ZRWR is located on is owned by Captain Joe Roy.

Statement in Media – The Rhinos have since been left on the ranch which has grown into a full-fledged tourist destination with the rhinos attracting foreign visitors, according to information availed to the commission of inquiry.

RFU response – With the rhino poaching statistics in South Africa alone at 333 rhino poached in 2010 and over 140 rhino poached up to end April 2011, it is not possible to just leave rhino on a piece of land.  RFU has well trained rangers that monitor the rhino 24 hours a day and this project is run with good management and structures. As RFU does not receive Government or UWA funding and rely on International and other funding, on foot rhino tracking has become an activity that tour operators have added onto their itineraries which tourists enjoy.  The income from the rhino tracking assists RFU with their annual operating costs.

Statement in Media – The commission, chaired by the retired Supreme Court judge, George Kanyeihamba, heard that UWA recruited, trained and deployed staff at the ranch and still pays them though no returns are realized from the ranch. It is also not clear if UWA is paying Zziwa ranchers to keep the rhinos.

RFU Response – UWA has never paid the salaries of the rangers or any other staff members of RFU or Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary (ZRWR)

  • UWA assisted RFU with recruiting staff before the sanctuary was opened.
  • During the construction of the fence around the sanctuary, UWA had one staff member monitoring the fence workers.  This UWA staff member’s salary was paid by UWA.
  • On a temporary basis UWA had two staff members stationed at Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary before the rhino arrived assisting with conservation training.  These two UWA staff member’s salaries were paid by UWA during this time.
  • When the RFU rangers attended the same training that the UWA rangers attend, on two occasions (alternatively 2 months and 3 months)  UWA assisted RFU by sending 4 UWA rangers (4 each time) to Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary as substitution staff.  These UWA rangers salaries were paid by UWA during the 2 – 3 months that they worked on the sanctuary.  The RFU ranger training costs was paid by RFU.

Statement in Media – The Commission is investigating alleged mismanagement of US$ 38m World Bank loan and grant as well as sh1bn from the Government of Uganda, by the UWA under the PAMSU project.

Response by RFU – Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary/ ZRWR or RFU has never received any money from World Bank or any money under the PAMSU project.  If any of these names reflect in any letters or documentation of RFU/ZRS/ZRWR it is an administration error.  All donor money received by RFU or ZRS/ZRWR came from private donors.  The money that was donated by the European Union, according to their legislation, was given to UWA specifically for the Rhino Fund project and that money was paid over to RFU by UWA.

Statement in Media – The UWA former board chairman, Andrew Kasirye, appeared before the commission and denied knowledge of any UWA official having shares in Zziwa ranch.

RFU Response – No UWA official has any shares in the Ziwa Ranch, RFU or ZRS/ZRWR.

Statement in Media – The number of rhinos is expected to be over 20. About 14 of them are white rhinos imported from South Africa and two from Florida, USA. Some of the rhinos have been born at the sanctuary. The black rhinos were imported from Kenya.

RFU Response

  • No rhino have ever been imported from South Africa.
  • There are only 9 rhinos on Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary / ZRWR of which 6 are the original adults imported with donor money and 3 are calves that have been born on the sanctuary due to a good secure environment and management.
  • There are no Black rhino in Uganda and there have never been any black rhino imported from anywhere for the RFU project.

Statement in Media – Kasirye, however, blamed the World Bank conditionalities and the Government teams’ ineptitude in negotiations, which he said allows foreign partners to dictate terms of the agreements.

RFU Response – RFU / ZRS / ZRWR has no knowledge of the World Bank PAMSU money and how it was used or for what it was allocated.

RFU / ZRS / ZRWR – FUNDING AS RECEIVED BY :  (Monetary or in kind)  :

  • UWA (70 million ugs Emergency funding in 2009)
  • UWA (Loan of 2 vehicles and 2 motorcycles) – maintenance done by RFU and still in use
  • UWA (12 Firearms for protection of rhino) – still in use
  • UWA (Veterinary surgeon in case of treatment need for rhino)
  • MTTI (CITES and import permits for rhino)
  • Augsburg Zoo
  • Brevard Zoo
  • Coke Uganda
  • Crane Bank
  • Disney Animal Kingdom
  • FUT
  • Good year Uganda
  • Intermax
  • KNIP (Kleinschalige Natuur Initiatief Projecten)
  • PAPS (People and Park Support)
  • Private Donors
  • Prins Bernard Natuur Fonds
  • Save the Rhino International
  • Sheraton Hotel
  • The European Union
  • The Save Foundation
  • Total Uganda
  • USFWS (United States Fish and Wildlife Services)
  • UNDP (United Nations Development Program)
  • Ziwa Ranchers (in kind free of charge 30 year land use rights)

STATEMENT

  • This rhino reintroduction project was started with the permission of UWA and MTTI.  All discussions prior to RFU being registered were held with the above two Government institutions and the necessary permission was given to RFU to go ahead with the rhino reintroduction program.
  • RFU still works closely with MTTI and UWA and has one member from both institutions on its Board of Directors as stated in our constitution.
  • Capt Joe Roy, who’s land the rhino project is being run on namely Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary / Ziwa Rhino and Wildlife Reserve has never received one shilling from this project. There has never been any kind of agreement or arrangement that Capt Joe Roy would benefit financially from this rhino reintroduction project.  The 30 year land use rights was given to RFU by Capt Joe Roy at no cost as this was his contribution as a Ugandan Citizen and Business man to conservation in Uganda.  Capt Joe Roy does not and has never received any kind of financial or in kind compensation from RFU, ZRS, ZRWR, UWA, MTTI or The Government of Uganda.
  • No UWA or MTTI official received in the past or currently receives any kind of financial compensation from RFU or ZRS / ZRWR.
  • ZRS / ZRWR or RFU does not receive funding from MTTI, Government or UWA.  The only funding received from UWA is the 70m shillings in 2009 as emergency funding.
  • No ZRS / ZRWR or RFU staff member’s salary is paid by MTTI, Government or UWA.
  • RFU or ZRS / ZRWR has never received any money from PAMSU or World Bank via UWA or any other way.
  • RFU and ZRS / ZRWR does not make any kind of profit. All income generated by this project is used as running costs and we still need annual funding to cover the shortfall between income and expenses.