Local Wildlife

Coexistence Challenges: UWA Takes Steps to Address Human-Wildlife Conflicts in Queen Elizabeth National Park

BY MORIS MUMBERE

KASESE: The Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) is facing a significant challenge in ending human-wildlife conflicts in Queen Elizabeth National Park, as surrounding communities appear to be aiding animal poisoning, poaching, and agricultural activities that threaten the park’s ecosystem.

The allocation of land to pastoralists in Kasese district, including areas like Ibuga, Bigando, Kabukero, Nkoko, Rwehingo, and Nyakakindo villages, has resulted in conflicts with wildlife.

Stephen Nyadru, Assistant Chief Warden of Queen Elizabeth National Park, explained that the government’s decision to allocate land to these communities was intended to free some grabbed national park land and create enough space for wild animals.

However, it seems that this effort has not yielded the desired results, as about eleven villages, such as Katwe Kabatoro, Katunguru Kasese, Katunguru Rubirizi, Kasenyi, Hamukungu, Kahendero, Rweshama, Kayanja, Kahendero, Kikorongo, Muhokya, Busunga, and Kashaka, have now been elevated into parishes and town councils within the national park, leading to increased human-wildlife conflicts.

The communities surrounding the national park have become a cause for concern, particularly when wild animals eat their crops and animals while grazing in the park. Tragic incidents, such as the killing of nine lions in revenge for a cow eaten by stray lions in Hamukungu fishing site and the poisoning of 11 climbing lions at Hamukungu fishing landing site, have highlighted the growing issue.

Steven also highlighted the dangers posed by the access roads developed within the national park, which are being used by different people with ill intentions, unbeknownst to the Uganda Wildlife Authority. These roads provide an opportunity for poachers and others to enter the park and cohabit with the dangerous wildlife.

In an incident on July 10, 2023, a man carrying matooke on a motorcycle from Rubirizi district to Kasenyi fishing landing site in Kasese district narrowly escaped being eaten by lions along the road. This incident raised concerns about the safety of individuals using these access roads.

Lion looking on at the motorcycle that was carrying Matooke heading to Hamukungu Fish Landing Site.

Bashir Hangi, the Uganda Wildlife Authority communications officer, confirmed that most locals engage in illegal activities like poaching and animal poisoning at night, making it difficult for authorities to apprehend the criminals. He also highlighted the challenges of distinguishing between innocent individuals using the access roads for legitimate purposes and those with malicious intentions.

The loss of over 20 cows and goats every month in the conservation areas adds to the urgency of finding solutions to the conflict. Dangerous animals like lions, elephants, buffalo, bush pigs, and crocodiles are difficult to manage within the park and have resulted in several tragic incidents of attacks on humans.

To address the human-wildlife conflict, UWA is planning to implement electric fencing in the remaining parts of the park.

According to Hangi, this measure aims to prevent animals from straying into human settlements and vice versa. Additionally, the enactment of a compensation clause would ensure that affected persons receive adequate support for losses incurred due to wildlife-related incidents.

Bashir Hangi the Uganda Wildlife Authority communications officer together with Stephen the the chief warden.

During the annual wildlife research symposium, Hon. Martin Mugara, the State Minister for Tourism, shared that over 7000 cases of human-wildlife conflict have been registered, highlighting the need for better research and understanding of the challenges faced by surrounding communities.

To support research and conservation efforts, the government has secured funds from the World Bank through the ministry of finance under the Competitive Enterprise Development Partner (CEDP). This funding will be used to establish a state-of-the-art building that will host laboratories and training facilities for wildlife research and education.

Local authorities in Kasese district emphasized the importance of coexistence with wildlife and called for measures to make conserved areas more profitable for surrounding communities, encouraging them to respect wildlife habitats and avoid encroachments.

Kasese district continues to grapple with challenges caused by wild animals straying from Queen Elizabeth and Mt Rwenzori national parks, leading to crop destruction and occasional loss of life.

As UWA takes steps to address human-wildlife conflicts in Queen Elizabeth National Park, it remains vital to foster collaboration and understanding between conservation efforts and local communities to ensure the preservation of this precious ecosystem.

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