Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) has received 15 tonnes of maize flour, 6 tonnes of beans and 500 litres of cooking oil from African Wildlife Fund (AWF) to support rangers to carry out their day to day duties amidst the COVID 19 pandemic that has seen a drop-in revenue earning for UWA. The handover of the items took place at Uganda Museum 29th June, 2020. While handing over the items, the Country Director Sudi Bamulesewa noted that the items were an emergency package designed to ensure conservation work goes on unhindered by the current crisis. He noted that it was critical that conservation areas be urgently supported to carry out their routine protection of the ecosystem. “The African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) is implementing its COVID-19 Emergency Response Plan in its priority landscapes to address conservation and socioeconomic issues. Some of the detailed activities under this include; Protected Area patrols, canines program support, community livelihoods and human wildlife conflict mitigation support and community awareness programs among others,” Sudi revealed.
UWA’s Director- Conservation John Makombo, on behalf of the institution thanked AWF for the great contributions made not only for the food donations but over time for the past 20 years. He noted that the AWF has been one of the strong partners over the years supporting a lot of infrastructural development in the institution. Recently, AWF had supported the conservation areas of Kidepo Valley and Murchison Falls Conservation Areas with 10,000 litres of diesel each. Such efforts will ensure that UWA maintains full planned operations to maintain the integrity of the all Protected Areas.
“This gesture will be a strong morale booster for the rangers who will be the beneficiaries of this donation. The food will be put to good use. Such supplementary efforts of our operations will not go in vain,” Makombo noted. The Director observed that much as interest in game meat is on the rise, UWA is alert doing patrols and monitoring every pocket of the parks to rise to the challenge and argued those with intentions to go illegally in the park to desist. The items received were immediately dispatched to the various conservation areas for distribution. The ceremony was attended by members of top management that included Charles Tumwesigye Deputy Director Field Operations, Edgar Buhanga Deputy Director Planning and George Oweyisigere Deputy Director Community Conservation.
On 20th May, 2020, Rwenzori Mountains National Park in Queen Elizabeth Conservation Area distributed 300 bee hives as part of its outreach program with frontline communities that surround the park. The hives were given to 30 organised community groups in the five districts that neighbour Rwenzori Mountains National Park. The beneficiary districts included Kasese, Bunyangabo, Kabarole, Ntoroko and Bundibugyo witnessed by representatives from their respective local council and opinion leaders. The beneficiary communities will set up the apiaries as livelihood projects to improve household income. This will further reduce illegal activities within the park as people’s incomes will be diversified.
The beehive initiative was specifically welcomed by communities because it benefits many groups of people as opposed to individuals. Additionally, it is easy to monitor and determine misuse by a given community member. Previously, the park had supported other alternative projects that included goat rearing and piggery but the projects had been misused by beneficiary families. Most of the animals were prematurely sold off and no value for money realised with individuals claiming the goats/cows had naturally died or got stolen.
Apiaries have therefore over time proved to offer more tangible benefits with most communities adjacent to the national park appreciative of them. Apart from money they generate as a result of harvesting honey, they also act as a deterrent to elephants averting a serious Human Wildlife Conflict issue. It is therefore hoped that with more beehives distributed, UWA will get in touch even more with its host communities who in turn will appreciate the value of wildlife conservation. This will improve on the relationship between the park and frontline villages. In 2019, Rwenzori Mountains National Park alone distributed revenue sharing funds amounting to UGX 115,000,000 (One Hundred and Fifteen Million Uganda Shillings) as a result of tourism. Such benefits will only be attained when community protect wildlife for tourism.
By 1st July 2020, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park will move to occupy a new Visitor Information Office in Kisoro town. The park has received five room building housed on nearly an acre of land donated to Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) by Kisoro District Local Government (KDLG) The information office will now shift to this newly acquired space on Kabale - Bunagana road opposite the Kisoro Central Police station.
In preparation for the new facilities, minor renovations are already being undertaken. “For a start, two rooms which are ready for use will be occupied with the remaining three to be fully utilised in due course. The information centre will have a front-line desk with a fully equipped booking system and information materials of all the tourist attractions in the region,” reveals Moses Turinawe, Warden Tourism, Mgahinga. Kisoro is a tourism town that borders Rwanda and in close proximity to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and the Southern Sector of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. It is therefore a central town for any tourist intending to visit any place in the region.
UWA’s Spokesperson Bashir Hangi described the gesture by the district as a sign of the good relationship between Kisoro District Local Government and UWA. He expresses optimism that the acquisition of office space will ensure that visitors get as much information as possible. “The gesture of the district to give us office space is a demonstration of our good relationship with our stakeholders and appreciation of tourism by the district leadership. A lot of useful information for the visitors will be channelled through the office enhancing their knowledge of the region”. It is hoped that these offices will give a better impression to the visitors and greatly help UWA off set the rent currently paid at the old premises.
Other infrastructural developments Mgahinga is undertaking in preparation for tourists post COVID- 19 pandemic include repair of attendant facilities along the hiking zones for the mountainous experience. Already repaired are 387 meters of ladders on Mt. Sabinyo with additional 54 meters constructed along Muhavura hiking trail to improve mountaineering experience.
To maintain the integrity of the park and protect wildlife from community settlements, 53 meters of stone wall broken during buffalo incursions in both Gisozi and Rukongi parishes have been repaired. A total of 6 kilometres of fire line were opened in areas around Muntebe and Bisasa for management of wild fires during the dry season. Additionally, two acres of exotics including black wattle, eucalyptus and pine trees have been cleared in Rongi and Mutwaranko.
In the year 2015, Uganda Wildlife Authority took a decision to translocate fifteen giraffes from Murchison Falls National Park to Lake Mburo National Park. Of these 15 Giraffes, 4 were males and 11 females. The translocation aimed to establish a viable, free-ranging population in Lake Mburo National Park. According to Dr. Aruho, A Senior Veterinary officer in UWA, several scientific studies had been undertaken prior to ensure habitat support of the giraffe population once introduced in the park.
Chief Warden Lake Mburo National Park Asa Kule reveals that since translocation, the population has almost doubled with 29 individuals in the park. A baby boom of 9 babies was registered this year alone. This now brings the total number of babies to 13.
Dr. Aruho adds that Lake Mburo National Park’s open savannah nature with plenty of acacia has presented good grazing zones for the gentle giants. Their imposing nature has added significantly to the tourism products of Lake Mburo National Park.
Another reason for their survival is that the giraffes are not of so much interest to poachers considering that ever since their translocation, no case of poaching has been registered so far. They range within the park where acacia is still in plenty. In addition to plenty of food in Lake Mburo National Park, there is abundant water from Lake Mburo and the big wetland system which is very huge supplement to the rains.
Uganda Wildlife Authority has been working hard to protect these endangered species in their natural habitat to restore their population numbers. Translocation, careful monitoring and research together with partners have advanced their conservation.
There are several threats to giraffes that include disease, illegal hunting, and habitat degradation. Uganda Wildlife Authority has worked tirelessly to combat poaching, encroachment and with a well-equipped veterinary unit constantly monitors the populations for signs of disease. The hard work and dedication is paying off with an increase in wildlife population numbers.