Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary is home to the only wild rhinos in Uganda

Abandoned. You would have excused Angie Genade of thinking the rhino conservation project at Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary had been abandoned when she took on the role of Executive Director of Rhino Fund Uganda (RFU) in September 2008.

Abandoned by most of the donors who had funded the Project since its inception in 1997; abandoned by most of the technical advisors listed on the organisation chart but who had not been on site for years; abandoned by most of the RFU board of directors who were nowhere to be seen; abandoned by many of the originally trained rangers who had left and by many who had stayed but whose dedication was questionable; and abandoned by the four people who had previously held the title of Executive Director RFU. It was not a pretty sight.

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Bringing rhinos back to Uganda

Uganda was once the home to thousands of rhinos but, by the 1960s, the numbers were down to around only 400 Eastern Black rhinos (Diceros biconis michaeli) mostly in Kidepo Valley National Park and Murchison Falls National Park and 300 Northern White rhinos (Cerathotherium simum cottoni) mainly in Murchison Falls NP.

During years of civil unrest in the 1970s and early 1980s, the remaining rhinos were poached to extinction with the Northern White rhino last seen in 1982 in Murchison Falls NP, while the last Black rhino was last seen in Kidepo Valley NP in 1983.

In the latter part of the 1990s, with the return of peace and governance, the Government of Uganda (GoU) through its Ministry of Tourism, Trade and Industry (MTTI), the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) and Rhino Fund Uganda (RFU) started a programme to reintroduce rhinos.

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Conservation Characters

Johannes Jacobus Genade is the owner/manager of Amuka Lodge set in the pristine woodlands of Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary in central Uganda. This new build lodge was officially opened in August 2011 and marked the remarkable journey of Johan Genade from an army ‘squaddie’ into full time Wild Life conservation.

A native of Namibia, Johan was brought up in a small village on the edge of the Namib desert in southern Namibia. In a family of three brothers, much time was spent hiking and camping in the desert among some of the world’s most spectacular flora and fauna, not the least of which was the Namibian Oryx. After school, like many of his contemporaries, he was drafted into the South African National Defence Force.

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Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary - the first 10 years

Once there were hundreds of eastern black and northern white rhinos in Uganda, but through legal over-hunting and illegal poaching they became officially extinct in 1983. In 1997, a group of conservationists created the NGO Rhino Fund Uganda to raise funds to reintroduce rhinos to the country. So it was that the first fence posthole for the new Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary (ZRS) was dug in October 2013.

The sanctuary covered 64.2 km2 in Nagasongola District in central Uganda. While this was outside of the historic range of the northern white rhino, it was only 120 kilometres further south of the area in Murchison Falls National Park to where white rhinos had been moved and bred successfully in the early 1960s.

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The bizarre and the beautiful

The Lugogo swamp runs along the whole of the southern border of Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary in Uganda. With an early start to arrive at the water’s edge at daybreak and after a short walk, the chances are high that there will be a lone Shoebill Stork in the shorter grass in front of the tall papyrus reeds.

A solitary bird that begs the peace and quiet of the swamp, it is, according to the African Bird Club, "one of the great African species, one of the major challenges in bird-watching and always a bird to cherish". The Shoebill really is a challenge! It is classified as being "nowhere common". It prefers remote, secluded and extensive permanent swamp where it will stand silently watching for prey.

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