The Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary is the only place where you will be able to see rhinos in the wild in Uganda. In 1970, about 300 black rhinos roamed wild in Uganda, divided between the Murchison Falls and Kidepo National Parks, while a population of roughly 120 white rhinos resided in Ajai, a small wildlife reserve to the northwest of Murchison Falls. Within little more than a decade, both species had been poached to local extinction. Uganda’s last white Rhino was shot in Murchison Falls National Park in 1982, and no black rhinos have been observed in either Murchison Falls or Kidepo since 1983.
The main cause of this sudden decline was poaching for rhino horn which is used as dagger handles in the Middle East and as an aphrodisiac in some parts of Asia. Poached rhino horns fetched up to USD 1 million on the black market, exacerbated by the general atmosphere of lawlessness that prevailed during and after the war in 1979, in which Idi Amin was ousted.
Founded in 1997, Rhino Fund Uganda is an NGO dedicated to reintroducing both species of rhinos to their former Ugandan haunts.
The sanctuary contains about 30 rhinos and a range of smaller game species. The rhinos can be tracked on foot in the company of a ranger, and are habitually found in wetland areas, so wear appropriate footwear for the conditions.
The prehistoric-looking shoebill can also be found in the nearby swamps. The sanctuary contains over 300 bird species.
Size and accessibility:
Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, is a 7,000 hectare ranch of savannah and woodland.
It is a 4 – 5 hour drive (176 km) from Kampala on the Gulu road. It’s an ideal place to visit en route to or from Murchison Falls National Park.
There is no nearby airstrip, however it is possible to fly to Pakuba airstrip in Murchison Falls National Park and drive to Ziwa from there. But you might want to stay in the park for the night before driving to the rhinos.