African rhinos have two species that is the black rhino and the white rhino. These two species of black Rhinos (Diceros Bicornis) and white Rhinos (Ceratotherium Simum) are also classified amongst the African big five mammals and are easily differentiated by the shapes and sizes of their lips where the White rhinos have flat squared and wide upper lip for easy grazing on the vegetation and they prefer to leave in open savannah grassland areas where they enjoy feeding on grass whereas the black rhinos have pointed triangular-shaped upper lip for easy fruit picking and largely inhabit woodland areas with plenty of trees, leaves, plants, buds and shoots which they feast on. However, the Black rhino is solitary whereas the white rhino is social.
In Africa, African white rhinos are found in different parks with in different countries such as South Africa in Lewa Wildlife Conservancy which harbors the largest population of white rhinos, other white rhinos were re-introduced to Kenya in Lewa Wildlife, Uganda, Cote d’Ivoire, Botswana, Namibia, Swaziland, Zambia and Tanzania in Mkomazi National Park among others
Whereas the biggest population of African black rhinos is found in South Africa and the remaining is distributed in other countries including Namibia in Etosha National Park, Kenya, Zimbabwe and Cameroon among others
However, the population of rhinos is still marked as endangered worldwide due to poaching and hunting especially the black rhinos marked on IUCU red list as critically endangered with the remaining population of about 6,000 black rhinos which are at a verge of total extinction in the world unless conservation measures are tightened to protect the few existing ones to produce and multiply and around 19,000 white rhinos still existing in the world which are also endangered but not critically like the black rhinos
Where are rhinos found in Uganda?
In Uganda, the only existing rhino species is the African white rhinos being protected at Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary along Gulu high way just 176km from Kampala City in Masindi south of Murchison Falls National Park and can easily be accessed by visitors heading to Murchison falls national park with a stopover for few hours or an overnight to full exploit the nature and all that exist within the sanctuary. These white rhinos at Ziwa rhino sanctuary were re-introduced back in 2005 as a result of the rhinos being extinct in Uganda with the last rhino being killed in Murchison falls national park. The population of white rhinos is being protected and closely monitored by the Uganda wildlife authority (UWA) which is an organization responsible for conserving the wildlife in Uganda. The white rhinos are protected in a sanctuary in order to increase their population size before introducing them into the national parks. A female white rhino is referred to as an adult sexually at an age of 6 years thus can get pregnant and carry the pregnancy for 16 months which is the gestation period of a rhino while a male rhino matures at an age of 10-12 years
Rhino trekking in Uganda
Several visitors on a big five tour normally adds on their bucket a visit to Ziwa rhino sanctuary for white rhino trekking before or after visiting different parks for the other big four mammals thus summing up the true definition of “Big Five” including Lions, leopards, elephants, buffalos, and rhinos just in one tour. The best park that can easily be joined together with the Rhino trekking is Murchison falls national park which lies on the same direction thus Ziwa rhino sanctuary can easily be accessed by visitors before or after visiting Murchison falls park.
Uganda has only one destination when it comes to rhino trekking and it’s none other than Ziwa Rhino sanctuary home to re-introduced white rhinos available for trekking. During the trekking, visitors have to first drive inside the sanctuary to minimize the trekking time since these rhinos are always very far from the entrance of the sanctuary thus less trailing in the thick blush and once the rhinos are tracked, only one is allowed in the presence of rhinos taking photographs and so. Summing up all the trailing and the one hour given leads to approximately 2-3 hours rhino trekking
Like any other bushy area, there are other mammals that call Ziwa rhino sanctuary their home and these too can be seen while driving and trekking the rhinos in the sanctuary. These mammals include; Bushbucks, antelopes, Hippos, crocodiles, reedbuck, oribis, duikers, and some primates such as monkeys.
The sanctuary also harbors several bird species including the rare shoebill stork that can be seen during canoeing or guided nature walks with in the sanctuary making it the best destination for birding alongside rhino trekking watching several butterflies and reptiles in the sanctuary
Are there accommodations near the sanctuary?
The major accommodation facility easily accessed by visitors who are on rhino trekking tour is Amuka lodge, however, visitors can also opt for camping in the wilderness with armed rangers.
What caused the extinction of rhinos in Uganda?
Uganda had thousands of white and black rhinos in the wild. However, the population of rhinos reduced drastically in 1970s due to wars and great demand for the Rhino horns which are believed that they are processed to manufacture some medicine in Vietnam thus this demand has led to increased poaching off rhinos making them distinct in the wild and by 1990s both black and white rhinos were completely extinct in Uganda with nothing like a rhino in the wild. However, in 2005, Uganda reintroduced 6 white Rhinos and gazetted them in a sanctuary
“It is believed that the rhino horn truly cures cancer but that should not be the reason for poaching the rhinos”
Apart from two species of African rhino (black rhino and white rhino), there are other three Rhino species in the entire world including Javan rhino with about 70 still in existence, Sumatran rhino with less than 80 still surviving in the wild and Greater one-horned Rhino with about 4,000 remaining in the world as per 2019.