Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Day 1: Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary

Late afternoon on Friday, we arrived at the Ziwa Sanctuary, a 70 sq. km. compound where six white rhinos are being reintroduced to the wild in Uganda. Aside from these six, there are only two others at the zoo in Entebbe.

Three of us and a guide rode in the back of a pickup truck through swampy terrain (as the truck fishtailed around I thought, “Who is this person, doing such a crazy thing?) to see the six rhinos being watched by armed guards. At one point our guide pointed out a rhino footprint in the mud. As one of my fellow-travelers said, it was a very Jurassic Park moment, seeing this huge track in the mud.
We drove about 15 minutes to the place where the guards were watching the rhinos. The guards seemed very fond of the rhinos, knowing them each by name and gossiping about them. “Oh, Moji!” they would say as one of the rhinos grazed behind a tree. He was the dominant male, but none of the others liked him, they told us. “Nande!” they’d say of the big female, recently relocated there from DisneyWorld, of all places, as she glared at us and then wandered off. The guards spend a week at a time staying with the rhinos, reporting on their location via GPS and ensuring that poachers don’t get them.

To be honest, watching rhinos is a bit like watching very large cows grazing. Still impressive as all get-out, though.

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