Uganda’s rhino population has over the years been depleted through poaching but the race is on to try and conserve the remaining nine, or even get some more.
The Executive Director of Rhino Fund Uganda, Ms Angie Genade, said Uganda currently has nine rhinos at the sanctuary in Nakasongola District, along with the two used for educational purposes at the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre in Entebbe. She said the nine are ready to be released to national parks for tourism purposes, thereby giving them room to conserve more if they raise sufficient funds.
“Our income is so low that we can do nothing and need to have a huge amount of money each year. Unfortunately, we need more funding to bring in more rhinos and each costs $25,000 (Shs50 million),” she said, adding that the annual budget for maintaining the sanctuary, including buying uniforms and paying salaries for the guards, is $360,000 (Shs720 million).
According to the organisers, this year’s competition raised Shs20 million, which would be injected into the effort to raise and protect rhinos in their sanctuary in Nakasongola.
Last year, according to one of the organisers, Kelly MacTavish-Mungar, they raised another Shs20 million from the 24 teams that participated in the competition. “The event to raise funds for the rhino fund was not targeted at expatriates specifically,” she said. “It was targeted at companies that could pay one million shillings for a raft of six people with a pledge from the organisers that the money that was raised would all go back to conservation. What we encourage everybody to do is to give it a try.”
Ms MacTavish-Mungar, who is the executive director of Pearl of Africa Tours and Travel, said their plan is to have 30-60 rhinos in Uganda within the next 20 years.
Currently, she said, people can visit the rhinos in the sanctuary.
Foreign non-residents pay Shs50,000 ($25), foreign residents (Shs25,000) and Ugandan residents Shs10,000. Around the same time next year, there will be a similar race of what has now become an annual event.