The Rhino is Back
New Vision (Kampala)
December 18, 2001
PROUD? The rhinos walked majestically and seemed to ignore the large
crowd -- They believed that rhino meat was bitter and if you killed
a rhino, bad luck would strike you THE drums beat and flutes sang.
Sweat rolled down the bodies of the dancers. Skinny women wriggled
their waists at the side of the towering men. They sang in Luo to
entertain a small crowd of conservationists. They had gathered at
a ceremony referred to as "Welcome the Rhinos back to Uganda."
The two and a half-year white rhinos were the first rhinos to
walk on Ugandan soil in two decades. Rhino Fund Uganda, a charity
organisation, bought them from Solio Ranch in Kenya. This was under
the first phase of bringing back the rhinos to Uganda. Uganda used
to have both white and black rhinos which eventually became extinct.
The last white rhino was seen in 1982 in Murchison Falls National
Park. The last black one was seen in Kidepo in 1983.
The two beasts, female and male named Kabira and Sherino respectively
walked majestically on the patch of grass at the Uganda Wildlife
Education Centre (UWEC).
They seemed to ignore the enchanted crowds. "The rhinos are
seen as a tribal symbol in Lango," Jovina Akaki
told the crowd just before he commissioned the rhino. Akaki said
his tribemates held the rhinos in high esteem and would never kill
them. He therefore reasoned that the rhinos would have higher chances
of not being poached if they were kept in Lango. "They believed
that rhino meat was bitter and that if you killed a rhino, bad luck
would strike the home," he added. However, the second phase
to bring back the black rhinos would be in the neighbourhood of
Lango district. Yvonne Verkaik, the coordinator of Rhino Fund Uganda,
said an 80 square km piece of land in Nakasongola district had been
acquired to establish a rhino sanctuary. "The black rhinos
would be allowed to breed and later re-introduced into the wilderness," she said.
This would constitute the third and last phase of bringing the
rhinos back to Uganda, Verkaik said. Betty Kamya, executive director
of UWEC said they had contacted groups of people with an emotional
attachment to the rhinos. They included Buganda's Nkula clan, Busoga's
clans and the Langi who were dominantly represented. Rhinos are globally endangered because of their valuable horns:
They have two horns; one longer than the other. Poachers export the horns to Asia where they are used to make ceremonial
dagger handles and traditional medicine.