The fate of over 24 endangered Southern White Rhinos species only found at the Ziwa Rhino and Wildlife Ranch appears to hang in balance following a conflict between the owners of the land, who are also the founders of the project and the Rhino Fund Uganda who are currently managing it.
A New Vision investigation has revealed that the Ugandan family at the center of the reintroduction of Rhinos in Uganda is also on the verge of losing the prime property they donated to the project.
A South African national, Angela Genade who is also the Managing Director of the Rhino Fund is at the center of the conflict over the management of the ranch with its original owner Captain Charles Joy Roy and attempted in November to apply for a new lease despite the existence of another lease owned by Roy, information obtained from Ministry of lands indicates.
Efforts to get a detailed comment from Angella proved futile. Her phone was answered by a lady who refused to identify herself and also said she could not comment.
We have established through interviews and documents that Rhino Fund Uganda (RFU) was formed as a Non-Government Organisation (NGO) in 1997 by one Yvonne who was instrumental in convincing Capt. Roy to reintroduce Rhinos in Uganda after they had been wiped out by poachers.
A management team was then appointed later that year to oversee and guide the implementation and management of the RFU to achieve its aim of reintroducing Rhinoceros, a highly endangered species across the globe.
Out of this emerged the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, which Captain Roy granted 7000 hectares (16,000 Acres). A land usage license was agreed on between RFU and Captain Roy, giving RFU sole usage rights for a period of thirty (renewable) years. The first six rhinos were introduced to this habitat during 2005/2006.
In an interview with New Vision, Bonnie Wendy who is a daughter to Captain Roy said in 2002, they were approached by Yvonne who introduced to the family the idea of reintroducing Rhinos to Uganda and have them housed at the ranch.
“She persuaded my father to become a conservationist and then he had to buy another ranch in Kiryana in order to relocate over 7000 animals from the current home of Rhinos at his own cost,” Wendy said.
Captain Roy, subsequently built a perimeter fence at Nakitooma where the current Rhinos are being kept and also organised an international fundraising for an electric fence. He also transferred the initial four Rhinos from Kenya and another two from the United States of America.
Capt. Roy and his family became part and parcel of the initial board and recruited the previous four executive directors of RFU and was key in its decision making and Rhino management. He also drilled boreholes, put in place water dips and also constructed all the houses at the sanctuary.
Documents seen by New Vision indicate that in 2010, Captain Roy gave a concession agreement to D&D International, a company owned by Angela to operate a lodge and they were supposed to pay 10% of gross income and 10% from the restaurant to him.
They were also required to pay another 10% from accommodation and 10% from the restaurant as contribution for the welfare of the Rhinos.
Capt. Roy’s lawyers Omongole and Company Advocates said D&D never paid any coin to them and proceeded to create another company Amuka Limited to run the activities of the lodge.
“The issues of non-payment forced Capt. Roy to terminate the concession with RFU and D&D in November 2017 and Angela refused the termination and run to arbitration as provided for by the agreement,” Omongole told Saturday Vision.
New Vision is in possession of documents indicating that in November 2017, Angella placed caveat on the 16,000 acres and also attempted to convert her tenancy into a lease, what Captain Roy’s lawyers say was a fraudulent action.
Omongole said his clients have been denied access to the ranch by Police and that even though they have brought the matter to the attention of the director of operation in the Uganda Police force, no action has been taken.
UWA speaks out
Uganda Wildlife Authority director in charge of field operations, John Makombo noted that the endangered Rhinos were safe
“We have a team of offices directly watching over them and managing the Rhinos and their safety is our duty. Even if the contract between RFU and Captain Roy ends, we shall have an arrangement in which the animals will continue staying there until we find them a better home,” Makombo said.
He also noted that the plan to reintroduce the endangered species was still on and UWA had passed a budget to help facilitate this.