What you need to know:
- During the past 25 years, the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) has registered a significant increment in the wildlife populations of most wildlife species.
The Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) will this year celebrate its silver jubilee. Celebrations will be held on June 24, 2022 and its report shows an increase in wildlife populations in the protected areas that it manages.
During the past 25 years, UWA has registered a significant increment in the wildlife populations of most wildlife species.
Reports indicate that the population of giraffes has increased from 153 recorded in 1996 to 1968 animals recorded in 2020. Giraffes are a key attraction in the popular Murchison Falls National Park and Kidepo Valley National Park.
The population of elephants has increased from 1,100 recorded in 1996 to 7975 animal-count in 2020. It should be noted that elephants are among the most vulnerable animals that are poached for their tasks.
The population of Zebras has increased from 1700 recorded in 1996 to 17516 animals registered in 2020. Zebras are protected in Lake Mburo National Park and Kidepo Valley National Park.
The population of buffaloes has increased from 17,000 animals to over 44163 animals in 2020.
The fate of Rhinos
At the time of instating UWA as a semi-autonomous government body; rhinos had been declared extinct. With the re-introduction of rhinos in Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, Uganda has registered a population of 33 rhinos that are protected at the sanctuary.
There are plans to restock some of Uganda’s national parks where rhinos used to live. These include the Pian Upe Game Reserve and the Kidepo Valley National Park in northern Uganda.
Uganda wildlife Authority with the help of Uganda Wildlife Education Center (UWEC) has held a number of seminars where they have taught residents of the former wild rhino habitats about conservation. These efforts have been done to prepare the local communities for the re-introduction of rhinos in the wild.
Primates on the rise
Uganda is one of the few countries where primates thrive. The most popular primates protected in Uganda’s forests are the rare mountain gorillas, chimpanzees and the golden monkeys. However, this is not all that you find in the protected areas under Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA). There are other primates flourishing in the conservation areas including but not limited to the olive baboons, vervet monkeys, blue monkeys, red tailed monkeys among several other primates.
It should be noted that Uganda is one of the only three countries that protect the mountain gorillas. These great apes have been listed as endangered on the IUCN List.
In Uganda, the mountain gorillas are found in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National park. Bwindi protects a large population of over 480 mountain gorillas that is almost half of the world’s remaining population of mountain gorillas.
From the days where there were less than 500 mountain gorillas in the whole world to the present record where there are over 1000 mountain gorillas surviving in Rwanda, Democratic republic of Congo and Uganda; the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) has actively been part of this journey.
Uganda has the highest density of chimpanzees in Africa. UWA reports that the population of chimpanzees has increased from 1084 animal count recorded at the start of their tenure in 1996 to 5072 animals recorded in 2020. Chimpanzees are jealously protected in Kibale National Park, Budongo Forest, Kaniyo Pabidi, the Kyambura Gorge, Kalinzu Forest etc.
Though chimpanzees have seen a rise, there are still more threats to the protection of these great apes. Bugoma Forest is still facing demolition and there are also reports of chimpanzees that are not attended to in Mubende.
Ngamba Island and “Entebbe zoo” are the only two places where chimpanzees can be rehabilitated in Uganda but with the increased threats in Bugoma forest and Mubende; it is still unclear whether these two places are well prepared to respond to the damages of the human-animal conflict most especially in Bugoma Forest Area.
The Uganda wildlife Authority shared its concerns about the human conflict in the chimpanzee habitat of Bugoma Forest but nothing much has been done till now. In the recent presidential address on the high prices; the president echoed the need for conservation of Uganda’s forest cover but the Bugoma forest has not yet benefited from the same.
Translocation of Wildlife
UWA has done a lot in the translocation of wildlife and repopulating wildlife estates in the last 10 years. Over 601 wild animals of different species have been translocated. A significant population of giraffes was translocated from Murchison Falls National Park to Lake Mburo National Park and Pian Upe Game Reserve.
UWA reports that by 2020, the translocated animals were estimated to have multiplied to 1530 individuals. This prominent increase offers hope for those that have banked their future on Uganda’s tourism which mainly depends on wildlife.
Uganda wildlife Authority has done recognizable work in the conservation of wildlife. However, even though it has a number of successes to air out; there are also a number of issues still at hand raising grievances and fears among conservationists and tourism stakeholders.
UWA criticized on the fate of cats
Amidst a number of recorded successes in wildlife conservation, the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) has been criticized by several conservationists and tour operators over the fate of the big cats.
One of the conservationists, Ben Ntale raised concerns over the statistics of cats most especially lions and leopards. He said that “there are endless reports of lions being killed while UWA is watching”.
Recently on April 25, 2022, three female lions were reported to have been killed by electrocution in the Queen Elizabeth National Park. This still raises concerns about the safety of wildlife in the Queen Elizabeth national park.
Another stray lion was recently killed in Western Uganda in April 2022. The lion was gunned down during a joint operation involving the Uganda Police, UPDF, and UWA.
In the past lions have been reported to have been killed by poisoning. In 2021, UWA reported the death of six lions through poisoning. These lions died along with eight vultures that fed on their carcasses.
In another similar incident reported in 2018, a pride of 11 lions was killed, including eight cubs that were found dead. They were also poisoned and at the time, UWA blamed cattle keepers for poisoning them to save their livestock.
Bashir Hangi spokesperson of UWA said that the killing of lions and other animals in the game parks affects the tourism industry.
“The killing of lions affects tourism in the country. When people out there hear that lions in the game parks are being killed in big numbers, they lose interest in coming to visit the game parks,” he said.
Poaching Still a Big Threat
According to UWA, the cases of killing and poaching animals in game parks have recently gone up and the situation worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown.
According to UWA, last year between February and June, 367 poaching cases were recorded across the country which is higher than 163 cases recorded during the same period in 2020.