Communities Neighboring National Parks Denounce Poaching

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As wildlife-based tourism entrenches itself as a leading foreign exchange earner and communities begin to appreciate direct benefits from wildlife, several people neighboring Ugandan national parks have denounced poaching. Poaching is the killing of wild animals for meat or skins illegally.

In many communities neighbouring different Protected Areas such as Murchison Falls National Park, Lake Mburo National Park and Queen Elizabeth National Park, local people and their leaders have denounced poaching.

This took place at public meetings that were organised jointly by UWA and the local leaders. In Nebbi, over 100 people denounced poaching in May 2005 and handed over to UWA 72 spears and 30 wire snares, while in Butyaba parish near Bugungu Wildlife Reserve over 50 local people came out openly and handed over their poaching gear that included 64 wire snares, 18 spears, 10 arrows, 3 bows and one wheel trap.

Over 300 people from communities around Lake Mburo National Park including Rugaga and Massa in Isingiro District and Kakyera in Rakai District people denounced poaching in June 2005 after participating in several intensive and continuous sensitization workshops and meetings.

In Busolya village near Queen Elizabeth National Park nearly 150 people this month (November 2005) denounced poaching after participating in a sensitization meeting about the values of conservation and a visit to the national park. They handed over 75 spears, 3 traps, 9 wire snares, 7 bows, 3 dogs, 3 bells, one landmine which was to be used for blowing up elephants, and bullets.

The heightened interest among local people to conserve wildlife follows a multi-pronged strategy by Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) that has increasingly paid off, and includes the following factors:
– Extensive awareness campaigns among local people on the values of conservation and the legal implications for those found destroying wildlife.

– Implementation of the community conservation program through which communities are given controlled access to the resources within the Protected Areas after signing Collaborative Management Agreements with Uganda Wildlife Authority. This has enabled the people to learn, appreciate and realise benefits from wildlife conservation. People have also developed a sense of ownership for the wildlife resources within the Protected Areas.

– In addition, the judicial system has recently acted very tough with convicted poachers, many of whom have received stiff sentences of up to two years imprisonment.

– Enforcement of the laws against poaching, illegal consumption of game meat, and unlawful access to the protected areas has ensured increased compliance with the law among local communities.

– The revenue sharing policy through which communities get 20 per cent of annual gate collections from neighbouring Protected Areas has seen up to Ush1bn disbursed by UWA for various community projects in the last five years.

– The UWA anti-poaching measures on land, water and air have also been effective in deterring poachers from killing wildlife.

– Recently UWA retrained its ranger force together with the Uganda Peoples Defence Forces (UPDF) and created the Special Wildlife and Tourism Protection Force (SWIFT), which was subsequently deployed in all the country’s Protected Areas.

– More vehicles and field equipment have been acquired including radio communication and aircraft. Other changes within the UWA structure and new infrastructure have increased staff morale.

Now that communities are supportive of wildlife conservation and have denounced poaching, wildlife numbers will be restored as clearly seen by the improved trends in many parks from recent aerial counts.

With improved marketing and more political stability, it is expected that tourist numbers and wildlife populations will increase.

Wildlife populations have increased in the last 8 to 10 as follows:
· Elephant population increased from 1300 in 1995 to 3,000 in 2004.
· Buffaloes increased from 7,000 in 1995 to 18,000 in 2004
· Mountain Gorillas increased from 292 in 1995 to 370 in 2005
· Giraffe population increased from 153 in 1995 to 320 in 2004
· The chimpanzee population increased from 3, 300 in 1997 to 4, 950 in 2003. Uganda has the highest chimpanzee population in Africa.

Tourist arrivals also steadily increased as shown in the table below:

Visitor Statistics 1994 – 2004

National Parks 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004
MFNP 7,041 11,039 43,191 38,738 12,099 12,687 23,169 23578 27,825 39,262 46,033
QENP 12,158 17,358 20,291 12,962 8,349 8,073 8,743 14855 27,814 34,608 41,843
KVNP 1,489 1,766 1,399 690 1,810 1,501 2,285 2,470 1443 1049 818
LMNP 3,962 5,772 8,363 9,631 8,182 8,552 8,443 9616 11,587 11692 15,118
RMNP 1,030 900 1,988 296 0 0 0 117 250 331 592
BINP 2,517 3,488 3,310 2,694 3,437 2,101 3,983 4517 5075 4902 5768
MGNP 404 869 1,663 2,454 2,698 1,718 2,518 2205 2598 2722 3337
SNP 488 752 1,005 356 113 0 0 77 802 1179 1755
KNP 1,890 3,445 4,017 2,449 2,003 955 1149 1846 4899 5998 5463
MENP 280 491 755 1076 1,201 1,278 1872 2024 3234 3594 3610
Total 31,259 45,880 85,982 71,346 39,892 36,865 52,162 61,305 85,527 105,337 124,337

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