Ending illegal Wildlife Trade and conflicts in Uganda must go beyond laws in Uganda, says Acholi stakeholders.

todayJune 17, 2022

By Robert Ojok

Despite tourism being the second largest foreign exchange earner in Uganda, it is threatened by many challenges including hunting and human wildlife conflicts.
Over one million tourists visit Uganda every year, attracted by its many national parks boasting of a rich array of wildlife, bringing with them over 5.6 trillion Uganda shillings (US $ 1.6 billion), making tourism the second largest foreign exchange earner in the country. This is according to a 2019 World Bank report.
Conservation in Uganda became a significant movement during the British colonial rule in the early 20th century and active intensive management of wildlife in the Uganda Protectorate began in 1923 with the formation of the Elephant Control Department to reduce the damage to peasant agriculture by limiting the size and range of elephant populations. The first wildlife protected area was created in 1921 in Semliki Wildlife Reserve and the last Ziwa Wildlife Sanctuary was gazetted in 2005.

To date, Uganda has 23-wildlife protected areas, national game parks, wildlife reserves, zoos and sanctuaries among others scattered across the country.
In 2015, the Wildlife Conservation Society carried out an aerial survey that  indicated an increase in African bush elephants by almost 600 percent from a low of 700 up to 5,000. Queen Elizabeth National Park had 2,913 elephants, Murchison Falls National Park had 1,330 elephants, while Kidepo Valley National Park had 656 elephants.

During the war, says Moses Dhabasadha, Warden for Compliance, Monitoring and Enforcement at Murchison Falls National Park, a herd of elephants occupied community farmland. “If you look at the conservation history in this region, Aswa-Lulim used to be a game reserve and 20-years ago during the war animals’ animals occupied community settlement as people were in internally displaced people’s camps which is making it difficult to drive some of the wild animals back into protected areas after the war dissolutions of camps in northern Uganda”, Moses Dhabasadha said  

Lakony Jalon Duk, the village headman of pakawera central in langele parish Koch lii sub county was attacked by stray elephant on 22nd February in 2018.  “As I was approaching the seen the elephant attacked me from a near by ant-hill and I became unconscious but only gain consent from the hospital in lacor” lakony revealed The elephant damaged lakony’s ear, rib and one of the upper limb. Lakony says he need support interms of money and foodstuff to help his family.
In western Uganda, the challenge of Human Wildlife Conflict reads the same, population pressure on the scarce available land for settlement and agriculture coupled with tenure systems as narrated by people from Kabarole, Rubiririzi, Kasese and Bunyangabu districts.

A victim of wildlife conflict, Lukas Buhaka Bwambale, thinks the implementation of compensation scheme can help to reduce the conflict.   Buhaka, a human rights defender as well as the Founder of Shalom Mediation Institute, a Community Based Organization based in Kasese Municipality in Western Uganda which is one of the areas heavily affected by wildlife destructions from Queen Elizabeth, Tooro-semiliki wildlife reserve and Mt. Rwenzori National Parks says his follower was attacked and killed by animals from his garden. According to Buhaka, government should effect compensation without much interference coming from laws less community will revenge through poaching.

According to a speech by the Emmanuel Orac, the Nwoya district Chairperson, during a field visit by the Minister of Tourism and a team from Uganda Wildlife Authority said more than 85,600 people have been affected by wildlife conflicts in Nwoya District alone.
Between May and November 2021.  3,014 acres of crops were destroyed, and 4-lives lost in the sub counties of Koch Lii, Koch Goma, Anaka, Purongo, Got Apwoyo and Lungulu. Orac adds human Wildlife Conflicts have had far reaching consequences that some people are even committing eminent suicide following wild animals’ destructions, Currently, the act provides for Uganda Wildlife Authority to use only 2% of its annual revenue to be allocated for the compensation, leaving the government of Uganda to generate the rest, 98% to effect compensation. Walter Atiko senior economist and consultant on macro-economic, thinks that government of Uganda at this point in time is unable to effect compensation.

According to Walter, the Government of Uganda has prioritized security, education, health among other. “as I know the government has the mandate to protect the citizens and their property from wild animals but as I know, the government don’t have money caused by the effects of COVID-19, and the current government id very poor because the economy dropped due to decline in many revenue sources. Now the government is now focusing on priority sectors and debt servicing from external borrowing meanwhile tourism has been left out” Atiko said.     Last year in July, Tony Awany Area Member of Parliament for Nwoya County tabled a motion on conflict animals in his Constituency which prompted the Parliament to task the committee on Trade, Tourism and Wildlife to review the Wildlife Compensation Act so that government issues statutory instrument for enforcement within 6-months but to date, the document is still in the office of the Attorney General. According to the police annual report, wildlife crime in Uganda reduced in 2020 to 594 cases under UWA statute from 768 in 2019. The 2021 report does not have any records of Wildlife crimes committed in Uganda. But, from the Murchison Falls Conservation Area, 40-wildlife crimes are registered weekly with Pakwach district leading followed by Nwoya, Kiryandongo, Oyam, Buliisa and Masindi.

Dr John Makombo the Director Conservation at Uganda Wildlife Authority says that together with government of Uganda has started fencing the Park, in a two-year project funded by the World Bank. Dr. John Makombo says Uganda wildlife Authority shall extend 162km electric fence along Murchison falls and Queen Elizabeth national parks. “we have discovered that the trench digging will not help so much for now. The only option left is raising electric fence so that the community surrounding the conservation area remain productive” John Makombo reveals. 
The Uganda Wildlife Authority Executive Director, Sam Mwandha reveals that close to one billion Uganda shillings (USD 30,000) has been secured to kick start a wildlife compensation scheme. However, victims will have to wait some more, as the government, according to Mwandha, is waiting for the issuance of a statutory instrument by the ministry of Tourism to start the compensation. The proposed Tourism Development Programme budget for 2022-23, at UGX192.40Bn, is an increase by close to UGX4-bn but still below the National Development Program III recommended funding levels of UGX.562.3bn.
Findings by School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, The University of Queensland, Australia in 2019 indicated evidence for increasing human-wildlife conflict despite a financial compensation scheme in the Lake Mburo National Park. Financial compensations have produced mixed results with some studies showing successes in reducingcarnivoredeaths,whileotherswarnagainsttheir use, citing moral hazard, financial unsustainability and weakened protection of livestock by farmers among Bahima pastoralist communities.

This Story is Published in Partnership with Interviews Earth JournalismNetwork

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