Nakasongola, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Uganda Wildlife Authority-UWA is planning to relocate 33 rhinos from Ziwa rhino sanctuary in Nakasongola district due to land conflicts. Located in Nakitoma sub county, Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary (ZRS) has been under the management of Rhino Fund Uganda, a non-government organization.
However, about four years ago, a land row broke up between Rhino Fund Uganda (RFU) and Ziwa Rhino and Wildlife Ranches (ZRWR), the owners of the 16,000 acres of land where rhinos are being stayed. The land wrangle dragged on until April 15, 2021, when Ziwa Rhino and Wildlife Ranches hired brokers to forcefully evict Rhino Fund Uganda from the sanctuary.
They also ordered Uganda Wildlife Authority to relocate the rhinos. This prompted Uganda Wildlife Authority to deploy security at the sanctuary to ensure that the security of the rhinos is not compromised.
A press statement released by Uganda Wildlife Authority on Friday, says the misunderstanding necessitated the deployment to appropriately secure the rhinos until the conflict between Ziwa Rhino and Wildlife Ranches and Rhino Fund Uganda is resolved.
The Authority says the deployment is in line with its mandate to protect wildlife resources in Uganda in accordance with the Uganda Wildlife Act, 2019. The statement adds that the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities working with UWA will continue to engage the parties to ensure the conflict is resolved.
The statement further says that in the medium and long time, the rhinos will be introduced to UWA managed protected areas, adding that plans are underway to achieve this after completion of a feasibility study to identify a suitable location and conditions that need to be met.
Bashir Hangi, the UWA spokesman says the move is intended to protect the rhinos. Angie Genade, the Executive Director of Rhino Fund Uganda couldn’t comment because she was in a meeting. But Augustine Mudukoyi, the General Manager of Rhino Fund Uganda, said that although UWA has powers to protect the rhinos, it won’t be easy for them to chase and relocate them to another area.
Mudukoyi also raised concerns that Rhino Fund Uganda has invested heavily in breeding and managing the rhinos for decades and it’s not fair to relocate them without compensation. He told URN that they have tried to settle the land wrangle by accepting demands from Ziwa Rhino and Wildlife Ranches for 20% of the collection and appointment of three members on its board in vain.
Mudukoyi reveals that in September 2020, they signed a five year Memorandum of Understanding with Ziwa Rhino and Wildlife Ranches after meeting President Yoweri Museveni but they were disappointed when the owner of the land emerged in March this year and made more unrealistic demands.
Mudukoyi says that Ziwa Rhino and Wildlife Ranches asked for 100% collection and relocation of Angie Genade, the Executive Director of Rhino Fund Fund from the Ziwa sanctuary offices to Kampala. He says that the board relocated Genade to Kampala but rejected the demand for the 100% collections by Ziwa Rhino and Wildlife Ranches.
Uganda Radio Network was unable to reach Captain Joseph C. Roy, the owner of Ziwa Rhino and Wildlife Ranches for comment on the matter. There are reports that Captain Roy wants to convert the land into a sugarcane plantation following the disagreement with RFU.
In 2002, Capt. Roy offered his 16,000 acres of land to act as a sanctuary to the rhinos for a period of 30 years. However, in October 2017, Capt. Joseph Roy gave the management of Rhino Fund Uganda a letter terminating the MoU.
In 2020, after a series of meetings with President Yoweri Museveni and the Ministry of Tourism, the two parties signed a fresh five-year memorandum of understanding for the continuance of the flagship project, the rhino breeding program and safety of rhinos at Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary.
The Memorandum of Understanding suffered setbacks in March 2021 when Captain Roy laid fresh demands. On April 15, 2021, he walked out of a meeting called by the Ministry of Tourism and UWA, saying he is no longer interested in talks but wants them to relocate the rhinos and vacate his land.