By Wills Hughes-Wilson
The magic of sitting on the ground together with our rangers — Gloria and Sharif — and watching from just a few metres away as Bella and her calf Zawida wallowed in a small pond and argued about who got the “tap end” was an unforgettable experience and one that I will treasure forever.
For note, Bella won that rather noisy argument and Zawida huffily exited the pond and contented herself with rubbing on a tree, trying to persuade herself — and us — that she had never wanted to be in the pond in the first place.
I was lucky enough to bid successfully on a volunteer experience in the Auction at Save The Rhino’s Annual Fund-Raising Dinner in London (September 2017), which will be held again this year.
Having never been to Uganda before, we were hugely excited to experience this amazing country and visit the only place where wild rhinos can be seen here; as well as to get to know more, first-hand, about what it really takes to protect and nurture these beautiful animals, keeping them safe for future generations.
Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary began in 2005, aiming to reintroduce rhinos to Uganda, following their extinction in 1982. The Sanctuary covers some 70 square miles, with a variety of habitats where the rhinos can wander freely. The perimeters are secured by the Uganda Wildlife Authority and the Tourism Police, making sure that both guests and — most importantly — the rhinos, are safe.
Two rhinos at Ziwa Wildlife Sanctuary, Uganda.Photo Credit: Wills Hughes-Watson
After starting with just six rhinos, there are now 22 on the sanctuary and the numbers are likely to swell further, due to the brilliant news that several of the females are pregnant. Each of the rhinos is tracked and followed 24-hours a day, with rangers keeping a discreet distance to ensure as much of a natural life as possible, while ensuring their safety.
The rangers log the rhinos’ behaviour hourly, in carefully detailed parameters, building up a picture of what natural rhino behaviour looks like, as well as making sure that each animal is in good health, allowing appropriate intervention by veterinary healthcare professionals where necessary.
The rangers brave pouring rain and scorching sun to keep an eye on each individual rhino, demonstrating the incredible levels of personal dedication necessary to make sure that these wonderful creatures are safe. To me it seems it is hard work but also great fun; and the opportunity to see these amazing animals in their natural habitat, going about their day relaxed and content, was a reward in itself.
I would urge anyone who wants to learn more about the rhinos and to see them up close as they go about their daily lives; as well as to meet the incredible people who are making all of this possible, to consider a trip to Ziwa.
If you love rhinos and want to get out of a game vehicle and on foot for a unique opportunity to see them up close and personal; as well as to see what a truly great conservation operation looks like, then Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary is the place for you.
Bid at the Auction at this year’s Save The Rhino Annual Fundraising Dinner, or just book your ticket to Uganda to meet Angie and her team. They will be waiting to give you your own unforgettable experience and to welcome you with warm Ugandan hospitality.
The writer is a blogger