Rhino Fund Uganda
Chris Banks – Zoos Victoria, Melbourne, Australia
Rhino Fund Uganda (RFU) was established in 1997 with the mission of "applying sound conservation principles whereby a safe environment is created in which rhinos can be conserved for future generations". In addition, "through conservation education and community upliftment programmes, to win the hearts and minds of the surrounding communities, as well as Uganda as a whole, to ensure their support of the rhino conservation and reintroduction programme".
The last rhino in Uganda, a northern white rhino, was killed in 1983. In order to address this disastrous development and eventually to return a vital element of Uganda's environmental and cultural heritage, subsequent discussions with Ugandan authorities and private citizens resulted in the establishment of the 7,000 ha Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary. A renewable land usage license was agreed in 2002 between RFU and Captain Roy, a well-respected cattle farmer, giving RFU sole usage rights for the Sanctuary for 30 years.
The current focus is on southern white rhinos, with the first six individuals successfully introduced to the Sanctuary in 2005/2006. The first calf was born in 2009 and a further 12 have been born and raised. Additional female rhinos are planned for import from South Africa to enhance the genetics of the population in the Sanctuary. The rhino family groups have 24/7 monitoring by RFU rangers, enabling collection of invaluable information on rhino behaviour. This benefits rhino management across the Sanctuary and enables the information to become available to all rhino conservation projects through publishing papers compiled from these data in "Pachyderm" (journal of the African Elephant, African Rhino and Asian Rhino Specialist Groups of IUCN).
Very effective multi-layered security has ensured no loss of rhinos from poachers or hunters. A critical element of the security is the mutually beneficial relationships between RFU and cattle farmers living around the Sanctuary. These involve the farmers having assured access to grass and water for their cattle inside the Sanctuary each day, and the farmers acting as the first line of defence against potential incursions by poachers.
RFU has a strong emphasis on community and social awareness, all of which will support long-term protection and conservation of the rhinos and other wildlife:
- Hakuna Matata pre-school: initially created to provide early education for the children of rangers working at the Sanctuary, the pre-school is now attended by young children from the surrounding communities.
- The cattle farming communities noted above.
- Agreements with the Nakitoma Sub-County local government and the wider Nakisongola District.
RFU is an active participant in development of the "National Rhino Conservation and Management Strategy for Uganda: 2016–2026", which is expected to have government approval by the end of 2016.