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Uganda rhino population rebounding

Uganda's rhino population doubles in recent years

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    Thursday, April 10, 2014, 8:17 PM -

    Uganda's rhino population has more than doubled in recent years, renewing hope that the endangered animal will once again be able to roam free in the country's parks.

    Poached to total extinction 30 years ago, wild rhinos have not been seen in Uganda in more than three decades. 

    But Uganda's Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, which aims to reintroduce rhinos into the wild, is hopeful of remedying the situation. From an initial core breeding herd of six adult rhinos in 2006, the sanctuary has witnessed nine births and is now home to 15 rhinos. 

    The latest addition, a female calf named Lunar, was born last week. 

    "We had only six rhinos, three females and three males. So the three females have now given birth three times each, which is totaling up to 15 with the other adult males," said Godfrey Lutalo, a head ranger at the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary. He added that the fast breeding rate seen at the sanctuary, where each female has had gaps of only two years between births, shows that the rhinos are healthy and have enough grass. 

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    The sanctuary claims to possess the fastest rate of rhino reproduction ever recorded, attributing it to the conducive conditions on the 7,000 hectare large conservancy, the excellent care by veterinarians and the constant protection from poachers. In order to prevent poaching, the conservancy assigns three rangers to monitor each rhino 24 hours a day.

    "We have not received any poacher here apart from the local poachers. When I say local poachers, I mean people who are poaching these small animals for meat but not poaching rhinos for business," Lutalo said.

    But according to reports, Ziwa's successful breeding and zero rhino poaching record does not echo with other African countries.

    In recent years, a rapid rise in poaching has threatened to undermine Africa's conservation efforts. In South Africa alone, a total of 1,004 animals were poached last year.

    Rhino activists are concerned that the number of deaths will soon surpass birth rates and lead to an inevitable population decline. Rhino horns are a prized commodity in parts of Asia as some believe they have medicinal properties for several ailments. They can sell for up to 65,000 U.S. dollars per kilogram, more expensive than gold.

    Thumbnail photo courtesy

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