Uganda and Kenya are bickering over white rhinos that were evacuated from the country during former president Idi Amin’s reign.
According to John Makombo, the director for conservation at Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), four white rhinos were taken to the Czech Republic to shield them from death by insurgents.
When the situation later stabilised in the 1980s, the Czechs offered to return the rhinos but they somehow ended up in Kenya.
“Repatriating them [to Uganda] might not be easy because Kenya seems unwilling to hand them back,” said Makombo. “Heads of state are talking. It is at that level, those of us who don’t sit on that table can’t say much about it but it appears that the only available opening is for Kenya to facilitate the breeding of more rhinos [that would then be transferred to Uganda] and released to our national parks.”
Wildlife is highly valuable and having it in your national parks attracts more dollars through tourists. Of the 1.3 million people who visited the country last year only 220,000 visited national parks.
Uganda has only 23 rhinos; 21 at the Ziwa sanctuary in Nakasongola and two at the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre (UWEC) in Entebbe.
Makombo was speaking at the launch of the Poaching steals from us campaign aimed at creating awareness of the dangers of poaching in the country and illegal wildlife trade. The campaign is supported by WildAid and Uganda Conservation Foundation.
Uganda is the target of the campaign because besides being affected by poaching, the country has also become a transit route for poached wildlife. Makombo said at least 15 tonnes of smuggled ivory, rhino horns and bones have so far been impounded at Entebbe airport.
“We have had challenges in the trafficking of wildlife but ever since we deployed the dogs, we have been able to intercept and impound seizures at Entebbe, implying that without the dogs, we wouldn’t be able to get these smuggled animal parts,” Makombo said.
The campaign, which will run for three years, will be spearheaded by singers Irene Ntale and Maurice Kirya and comedian Ann Kansiime. Tourism earnings to the country are at $1.4 billion annually, making the sector the highest foreign exchange earner.