By PATRICK JARAMOGI
NAKASONGOLA, Uganda-SHIFTMEDIA- As the country went under lockdown for 42 days due to COVID 19 pandemic, a rhino died mysteriously at the Rhino Sanctuary in Nakasongola.
Unlike other animals whose death is made public and cause of death investigated, the death of this male Rhino (Hassani) was kept a top-secret by Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) who took over the protection of these endangered species.
But the truth will always be unfolded, that we promised as we “unearth the dung”. Apparently, according to our sources, the carcass of this rhino was discovered a week after its mysterious death. Sources said the rhino died around or on July 5, 2021.
Hassani was brought in 2006 from Disney Animal Kingdom Florida along with Nandi (the mother rhino that died last year). Hassani made 20 years this year (2021).
The carcass was found decomposing with maggots hovering around its body. What we are interested in is the fact that the UWA rangers were ordered to ensure no staff took pictures of the dead rhino until it was buried.
What interests us more are the reports that the UWA official in charge of the Zziwa Rhino Sanctuary a one Maj. Fred Kaseme threatened to jail the staff should the news regarding the death of “Hasani” leak to the public.
If the death was natural, why hide it? Why threaten jail sentence for staff should news leak? Why is it that UWA management has not come out to announce the death of this rhino, let alone launch a probe regarding its death like it did when scores of lions were poisoned in Queen Elizabeth National Park?
We tried to reach out to Sam Mwandah the Executive Director UWA, the Communications Manager Bashir Hangi they didn’t respond to the queries.
Sources close to rhino lovers in Uganda noted that the rhinos were always monitored especially at that time when they were under the Rhino Trust Fund Uganda. It seems, according to them, the monitoring stopped, once they parted ways with Zziwa Rhino sanctuary.
But a close source to UWA management intimated to us that a postmortem is being conducted to ascertain cause o death of Hassani.
“We can’t tell exactly what caused the death of Hassani. We can just speculate. But we feel it was not being monitored like it was the case before,” said a concerned source. “The fact that UWA staff identified the rotting carcass after it was full of maggots indicates it had died a week and no one knew,” added the rhino lover.
The drivers noted that the monitoring of the rhinos stopped once the Rhino Fund left. This we can’t ascertain.
What we are deeply investigating are reports (not connected to the death of the rhino) that some Chinese delegation were seen at the sanctuary a week after the burial of the rhino and shortly after many scores of development such as grading and leveling of roads within the sanctuary commenced.
Would it be just a coincidence? Remember a rhino horn costs US$ 500,000 (Ugx 1.8 b). I don’t want to be speculative here.
In April UWA announced the closure of Zziwa rhino sanctuary due to land wrangles between Zziwa Rhino and Wildlife Ranches (ZRWR), the owners of the land where the sanctuary is located, and Rhino Fund Uganda, an NGO managing the rhinos.
ZRWR is owned by Capt Roy.
Though UWA noted it was forced to close the sanctuary so as to protect the rhinos, the safety of the rhinos is already under threat, just months after it took over their management.
“For this to be effectively done UWA has within immediate effect closed the sanctuary to the public and as such, no tourism activities will be undertaken until further notice,” read a statement issued by UWA then.