Volunteer report Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary

Volunteer report from 12. – 26.10.2012, Dr. Ina Claus, Germany
General impression from Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary

I am fascinated from the high motivation, good organisation, reflected structure, professional skills and the politeness of all people working for the conservation of a threatened specie. From the bottom on the top – everybody is willing to do his very best and very aware about the endangering situation of the southern white rhino.

My duties
  • Rhino monitoring: The first times, the monitoring was very exciting. To look, to watch, to hear, to smell, to experience wild rhinos in the field. Very interesting and calming, I felt like Jane Goodall with her chimps. I was very eager to fill the paper with the dates and facts. After a while, it became more daily, but I was never bored. The company with the rangers was always nice – good communication, sharing life experiennce from two continents and cultures, but united in one goal. What really touched me were sentences like „my Kori“ or the anger, if clients were not interested in the animals. A field research on a very high level. Unfortunately, some rangers came without food, water, pen or destroyed the plants during the long monitoring day. But this was an exception.
  • Data sheets: The collection of the monitored facts happens on a high level. I liked to see and read what the rhinos do day and night, where they move, if they fight with Taleo, if they play, if they are healthy or sick and so on. This knowledge offers a good insight in the life of the rhinos and is necessary for their protection. It shows that in Ziwa happens on one side protection, but also scientific work. I liked to fill the field papers in the computer, so the whole thing became more serious.
  • Guiding clients: This job was my favourite. I appreciate how polite and well informed the guides briefed the clients. These were sometimes full of interest and on other days, they just wanted to see a big animal as background for a picture of themselves. A little shocked I became about some couples, groups or families who did not kow anything about poaching. They thought, this is a story from very former times, but has no actuality any more. Guiding clients is also very enriching, because you meet people from all over the world.
  • Fence patrol: This morning, I will never forget. I was told, that this is an hour on a bike, but then it turned out to be 5 very special ones. We got stuck for three times in the mud, the elenantilope chased us, I got shocked from the fence – real adventure. The organisation is very good – checking the gate keepers, let them sign in the book, to check again if someone is not on duty, controling the cattle farmers in the sanctuary, sorry, but I had a feeling of Germany. We are always blamed for being so correct and well structured. This fence patrol is absolutely like that, you could say „preußisch“.
  • Night patrol: On the night patrol with Godfrey, I had a feeling of the dangerous antipoaching work and the risk the rangers take. Godfrey told me all about signs, lignes, there walks, skills from the training and the military background. For me, as a always peace-moved demonstrant in europe, this information was exciting. I know, this is absolutely exaggerated, but I had a feeling of being in Afghanistan or the Irak. My respect for the work of the rangers was growing after that night. I said to Godfrey, „this is a very dangerous job“, and he just answered, „Yes, but it`s the job you applied for. So you have to do it.“ So easy, so clear. Great. In Germany, nobody would risk his life for that salary. Very, very impressing!!!
  • Community meeting: Unfortunately, I could not understand a word, because the meeting was in the language of Uganda. So I watched the people – the important ones were sitting on a bank, the others on the ground, women on the right side, men left. Peace and I got a chair. My feeling was that they listened to each other, having respect for the different opinions. Some were just in opposition, „farmers against wild animals“, never a love story. You could experience it in sentences like „your monkeys destroy my field.“ In the end, people wrote their comments about the talk and the results in a special book. I found that astonishing, but a good way for the next communication.
  • School: two mornings, I spend in the school. I visited all three classes and met all three teachers. I was surprised about the discipline, wow. Also, big results in refer to material and papers on the wall with only a few things. They really need support with pens, books and just stuff you need for teaching. Some kids never saw a rhino in the sanctuary, unbelievable. Maybe, it would be a good thing to copy, what Matto Barfuss did for Botswana. He wrote and printed a schoolbook with the title „The wildlife at my home.“ So, he tried to overcome the old dualism between farmers and their „ennemies“, the wild ones. I think it would also be a good thing to teach biology, especially birth control issues.
Some ideas

May be you could settle Aras. The area is ideal for them and there is enough food, the african coconut. It could also be interessant for the tourists. The guides, who show animals and birds what I liked very much, could maybe also offer this to the Rhino-trackers. So the people would stay longer and bring more money. And, last, but not least, you need a veterinary for wild animals. The experience with the hurting of Obama demonstrated, that this is an very important issue.

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