Items filtered by date: September 2012

One of the senior adult female mountain Gorillas of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park,

Bwiruka has died barely three months after the oldest male, Ruhondeza of Mubare Group  passed on.

She was known to be playful, friendly and even cheeky, but sadly, at the age of about 30, Bwiruka,
a female gorilla has died. One of the most senior adult female mountain Gorillas of Bwindi
Impenetrable National Park, Bwiruka has died barely three months after the oldest male, Ruhondeza
passed on.

Bwiruka, who has been a dominant female in the 34-member Nshongi family, was found dead by trackers on Monday, according to officials of Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA).

A necropsy (postmortem for non-humans) is being performed to determine the cause of her death
though UWA officials say Bwiruka, whose name in Rukiga means "one who knows how to run," had
recently grown frail and was sighted trailing the rest of the group with difficulty.

"Bwiruka has for the last few weeks been walking and feeding with difficulty, a clear sign that she
has not been feeling well," said the Acting Chief Conservation area manager at UWA Mr Charles
Tumwesigye. "She was about 30 years which is very old age for females because giving birth makes
them weaker than the males. It is very sad because her death means the number of mountain gorillas
has gone down by one."

Mountain gorillas, especially the males, can live up to about 50 years in habituation while their
average life span in the wild is 35 years. Habituated gorillas are more closely guarded by field
staff and receive veterinary treatment for snares, respiratory diseases, and other life-threatening

'Favourite lady'
UWA officials say during her hey days, Bwiruka was the male gorillas' favourite lady, thanks to her
playful character. She could be spotted in secret trysts with the family top males, Bweza and
Mishaya. "We all mourn the death of this special member of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park," Mr
Tumwesigye said.

The gorilla trackers will miss Bwiruka just as much as her family members. The secret of Bwiruka's
appeal seemed to be her light-hearted ways given that most adult females are not given to

As the Nshongi Family became more accustomed to the company of the trackers, Bwiruka would be known to playfully harass men. She could set up an ambush and 'attack' the trackers, leaving them bewildered, unharmed and laughing at the fact that she had pulled a fast one on them. Bwiruka will  be laid to rest in the park after the necropsy has been performed.

Published in General News

Fifty six senior officers of the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) on Saturday passed out after completing a three week course in leadership development and basic military training at the National Leadership Institute, Kyankwanzi.

The pass out ceremony was presided over by the minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities Mrs. Maria Mutagamba who was flanked by the director Tourism Mrs Grace Aulo and the commissioner for Wildlife Mr. James Lutalo.

Mrs. Mutagamba said the course was not only a fulfillment of a constitutional requirement under Article 17 which requires all able bodied Ugandans to undertake military training, but also a re-tooling and re-energizing step for UWA officers to refocus and manage resources more efficiently .

She urged the participants in the course to use the acquired skills to maintain the cohesion and implement the best practices in the running of the organization. The minister promised to address the challenges facing wildlife conservation and the tourism sector."We have the determination to address the challenges in tourism for us to claim our fair share in the global tourism market," she remarked.

Mrs Mutagamba argued that tourism sector has a potential to employ more Ugandans and increase its contribution to the GDP from the current 9% .

A member of the UWA Board of Trustees, Captain John Emily Otekat said the new board is determined to ensure to continued capacity building and morale for the for the staff .He called for discipline and determination for the staff to achieve their personal career aspirations and organizational objectives .

The acting Executive Director UWA, Mr. Stephen Masaba said the course was vital for leadership, management and practical skills while aiding one to appreciate own country. He revealed that UWA intends to recruit over 350 rangers to improve on the protection of the protected area integrity, curb illegal activities and improve tourist security. He also said the board had approved construction of more accommodation and establishment of an intelligence unit.

The deputy director NALI, Major Peter Ajoket said political education is the pillar of the National Resistance Movement with the purpose of harmonizing perception on what to do and how to do it. He said during the course duration, the students had tackled Political Education, Skills at Arms, Foot arms drills, Field craft, basic intelligence and patriotism among others. He said the overall performance was good and hooped the students would become dependable agents of transformation

The function was graced by the UWA Law enforcement Coordinator Colonel Charles Tusiime, the UWA Director Conservation Mr. John Makombo, the acting director finance Mr. Yunus Musisi and the Human Resource manager Mr. Chris Mwesiimo.

Published in General News

Recently there has been a spate of press reports in print and electronic media, including The New Vision, on increasing illegal activities in the protected Areas with particular emphasis on rampant poaching which has affected the population of the wildlife in national parks and wildlife reserves. Of particular concern was a special report reinforced with an editorial opinion in the Saturday Vision of September 1, 2012 under the headline "25 Elephants killed in 2011 as poachers go on rampage" and the editorial titled "Let us deal with poaching decisively".

Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) appreciates the concern from the media and the public about these unfortunate situations. Since its creation in 1996, UWA inherited the problem of poaching and encroachment of protected areas and has been battling them for sixteen years now. Fortunately, the efforts UWA has since invested in fighting poaching yielded fruit as the wildlife numbers have continued increasing. Statistically, large mammals censuses have revealed that the elephant numbers for Queen Elizabeth Protected Area increased from 400 in 1988 to 2,959 in 2010, buffaloes from 5000 to 14,858, Hippos from 2200 to 5,024 and Kobs from 18,000 to 20,971. In Murchison Falls Protected Area, elephant population increased from 201 in 1995 to 904 in 2010, buffaloes from 2,477 to 9,192, giraffes from 153 to 930 and Hartebeests from 2,431 to 3,589. However, it is important to note that the killing of elephants for ivory generally shot up over the last four years, not only in Uganda but within the entire elephant range states in Africa, for which concerted efforts of governments, NGOs, Donors, communities and the general public are needed to fight it. The reasons for this increased illegal killing of elephants in Africa shall be explained later in this article. Nevertheless, with such data in place, its not correct for the press (The Saturday Vision of September 1, 2012) to report that Uganda's wildlife is at the verge of extinction and that UWA is not doing much to control poaching in protected areas. UWA has an effective law enforcement unit in each protected area whose role is to control and prevent illegal activities and this is being done amidst a number of challenges like any other Institution.. The Special Report also contained inaccuracies and wrong information that UWA would wish to correct with regard to the alleged brutal murder of Semliki's Baraka. UWA wishes to clarify to the general public that the alleged Baraka elephant is not known to UWA staff and we would like to challenge any tourists or tour operator who has ever taken pictures with this otherwise peaceful Baraka as insinuated in the article to produce such photos to substantiate the claim. The picture of the dead elephant published in the report as that of Baraka and purported to have been killed recently is a UWA photograph taken on 2nd September 2010 when two elephants were killed by poachers in Toro Semliki Wildlife Reserve. The said poachers (led by Mr. Isaya Mugisha of Rwebisengo in Ntoroko District, accompanied by Mpaka Erica, Bihwaho Jamal and Mwine) were tracked and arrested by rangers, three pieces of ivory recovered, an automatic rifle AK47 used in the brutal killing of the two elephants impounded and the suspects arraigned before the 2nd Division Court Martial in Mbarara where they were charged in 2010. This was one of the cases that was properly and exhaustively investigated and the culprits prosecuted successfully. Reports of this incident and case as well as photographs including the one published on Saturday Vision of September 1, 2012 are all on file. It is unfortunate that one would use such a picture to portray UWA as a failed institution which has turned guns on the wildlife they are supposed to protect.

What has triggered increased poaching of elephants?

Elephants are generally killed not for meat but for their tusks made of ivory that is used in making expensive jewellery. In 1989, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) banned trade in ivory and other elephant products following the massive killing of elephants in Africa to supply the demand for ivory in Asian markets especially in China. With the ban of the International market on sale of ivory, elephant populations in Africa started recovering and in Southern African countries (South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe), the numbers of elephants increased to levels that instead caused habitat destruction and created lots of community conflicts. In 1997, these countries successfully convinced the Conference of Parities of CITES to downgrade their elephant populations from Appendix I (very high protection status) to Appendix II and allow limited commercial trade in raw ivory from these countries to Japan and China but this trade was not effected as a number of conditions set for these countries to trade in ivory were not met. In 2008, the CITES Conference of Parties (CoP14) allowed the four countries mentioned above to get rid of their stock piles of raw ivory as a "one-off sale" to China and Japan to generate resources for conservation of the remaining population. This opening up of the ivory market (meant for only the legally hunted and those killed as problem elephants from southern African countries) that was once closed unfortunately opened up illegal trade in ivory with the scrupulous traders finding an . Within four years of opening up the ivory market for the legal ivory trade, Africa has experienced the highest levels of illegal killing of elephants and though Uganda has only lost 25 elephants through illegal killing in 2011, other countries including our neighbours Kenya, Tanzania and DRC have lost several hundreds according to the data presented at a recent CITES meeting in Geneva Switzerland (62nd CITES Standing Committee meeting in July 2012) . The elephant poaching seen in Africa is a well coordinated and organized crime involving unknown rich, lots of monies and guns and the fight against this vice will require concerted efforts of communities, government, all security and law enforcement agencies including UWA, Police, Interpol, Army, Judiciary and URA's Customs to break down the international racket involved in the ivory trade. The local communities who are involved in the killing of the elephants are like the disease symptoms and not be the biggest problem. Rather, the buyers of this ivory who are living lavishly in Hotels as they wait for their kill are what we need to land our hands on to break the racket.

Poaching of other animals inside and outside protected areas

The perceived increase in poaching is actually a result of increased awareness of the general public on wildlife conservation than an actual increase in poaching. The general public is now more sensitized and enlightened about wildlife conservation that they are beginning to see that there is poaching going on yet this has been historically happening before the national parks were created more than 50 years ago. Originally, Kings used to hunt openly in our present protected areas. Likewise, community members used to hunt wildlife both inside protected areas and in areas that hosted wildlife outside the protected areas. Generally, more game was killed during that time as compared to today as almost all the communities depended on wildlife for meat food resources, including ceremonial dresses. Worldwide, poaching evolved with conservation and is still a challenge for all countries with wildlife resources. The problem is therefore not isolated in Uganda but a global threat to wildlife conservation. However, in Uganda, poaching has always been handled through the usual means of deployments, ambushes, patrols where the suspected poachers are arrested and prosecuted and this strategy will be be enhanced with more effective method to deter poachers who are becoming more advanced in machinery and techniques. There is also still plenty of wildlife outside protected areas in some areas like Kafu Basin, Karamoja, and the entire "cattle corridor" as it is often called for which UWA has no presence and these areas continue to be the source of game meat that finds its way to towns including Kampala. UWA has occasionally deployed and undertaken operations in these areas where several poachers have been arrested and prosecuted in courts of law but because there is no permanent presence, it is difficult to patrol all these areas when we still have challenges of maintaining effective mechanisms of controlling poaching within the areas gazetted as protected areas.

What seems to be a significant impact on wildlife population is reflected in the numbers of the Uganda kobs and Predators (lions, leopards, hyenas etc), in Queen Elizabeth National Park as wildlife counts indicate a reduction in populations of the wildlife species listed above. Other species populations are either stable or increasing (see attached table showing trends of wildlife populations in the country since the 1960s to present. UWA is working with other conservation bodies and NGOs to conduct research into the causes of decline in populations of Uganda kobs in Queen Elizabeth National Park but our preliminary findings point to the fact that the Kobs in Queen Elizabeth are not breeding and this may be attributed to habitat changes as a result of climate change, which is a global phenomenon. However, this will be established once the ongoing research is concluded. It cannot be true that kobs in Queen Elizabeth have reduced because of poaching as poachers generally do not focus on kobs as their main target. Besides, the population in Ishasha Sector is healthy than in northern and central Queen Elizabeth National Park where there has been noticeable habitat change.

The decreasing predator population is three fold; one is that their populations are affected by the prey population and as the kob population goes down, so will the lion populations; the second reason is that there is a serious conflict between pastoral communities which have invaded and settled within the fishing villages where the predators (lions, leopards and hyenas) roam freely. With this routine activity of the predators, livestock has always fallen as the culprit and the pastoralists have always retaliated by poisoning the predators. Some of these incidences were recorded in Kahendero fishing village where a lioness and a number of scavenging birds were found dead after being poisoned. A pride of nine lions was also cleared by the Basongora at the time they invaded and stayed inside the park before they were evicted by Government. Since the predators' numbers are generally fewer as a result of their position on top of the food chain, further poisoning of a few predators will have a significant impact on their populations. The third reason is the disease factor. Research has shown that large predators suffer from several viral and bacterial diseases that result in high infant mortalities. This is a natural phenomenon to regulate the population of organisms that sit on top of every food chain. There is however still a healthy population of lions in the national parks and many visitors to Murchison Falls, Kidepo Valley and Queen Elizabeth National Parks still report good sightings of this king of the jungle that makes their visit memorable. However, government needs to assist UWA to address the issue of pastoralists who have started staying in fishing villages as these areas were purposely established for fishing as the main economic activity. It is important to note that as long as the influx of pastoralists into the fishing villages is not controlled, the conflicts between predators and livestock will definitely continue and the country will therefore continue to lose them through poisoning and other unknown methods of elimination. Unfortunately, it is not the responsibility neither a mandate of UWA to regulate activities in fishing villages which are legally outside the national park.

The other factor that might have contributed to the perceived increase in poaching is related to the turmoil experienced by Uganda Wildlife Authority two years ago when almost its entire top management and the Board of Trustees were removed creating a situation of uncertainty amongst the staff and the general public .We believe the outside communities, particularly the poachers also took advantage of the situation to intensify their illegal activities as the morale of the patrol men dwindled. However, the situation has since improved and a governance Board put in place which has immediately started addressing the human resource issues as well as staff welfare issues.

The main challenge UWA is facing in addressing the issue of poaching and other illegal activities inside and outside protected areas is related to the weak laws and penalties for the culprits convicted of wildlife crimes. Most of the convicted criminals for wildlife offences are fined as little as 50,000 shillings or few months/years imprisonment (for say hippo carcasses from which they will get about 5 million) which is not deterrent enough to stop the diehard poachers and their collaborators. However with the proposed amendments in the Wildlife Act suggesting fines equivalent to the values of affected species on the International market and more stringent penalties, we believe the vice will be minimised.

UWA is also gradually strengthening its prosecution unit to expedite investigations and prosecutions. This is coming after realization that UWA currently does not prosecute and instead hand over the suspects to police who if not properly sensitized end up mishandling wildlife cases resulting in suspects winning cases or getting light sentences that are not punitive enough to stop them from engaging in subsequent poaching activities or other illegal activities. There are many instances where the same suspects have appeared more than 3 times in courts over similar offences, an indication that they never learn from weak sentences which they earn from the Courts of Law.

There is also a factor of lack of political will at the local level to fight poaching. Many times, local politicians will intervene to ensure that suspected poachers who are arrested are tried in courts within their home areas where the cases can be influenced. It is very rare to find local politicians condemning poaching. Instead they condemn UWA staff for being ruthless and anti-people. Unless this political will is cultivated within the local politicians including some Members of Parliament, it will always be a big hurdle for UWA alone to address poaching.

UWA strategies to address poaching inside and outside protected areas

UWA shall continue to engage and work with relevant stakeholders to address poaching and other illegal activities especially encroachment on wildlife protected areas. We have been having multi-agency wildlife sensitization seminars targeting the Judiciary, the police, the army, customs and other law enforcement agencies to bring these agencies on board and solicit their support for wildlife conservation and this strategy will continue. Workshops have been held in each region of the country and such meetings will be intensified as the officers sensitized get transferred to other areas and go with the knowledge. The new Board of Trustees has approved the creation of a special intelligence unit within the structure of UWA to gather information about poaching and other illegal activities and prevent these before they occur. This way, we shall be more proactive than being reactive. The unit will be comprised of about 80 staff located in all regions of the country to work with other intelligence agencies to address issues of wildlife crime.

UWA has a policy of zero tolerance to staff involvement in illegal activities. Any staff that gets proved involved in poaching or other illegal activity is summarily dismissed from the institution. A number of staff have lost their jobs and others had their contracts not renewed for suspected involvement and/or abetting illegal activities. The biggest challenge however is that some of the staff who have lost jobs in UWA have ended up being employed by the private sector as Tour Operator guides, drivers and Hotel managers and therefore remain working within the wildlife sector. Some of these disgruntled former UWA staff continue to peddle several lies and misinformation about UWA to the general public and tourists because they have an axe to grind with UWA.

UWA has in place a number of policies, regulations and guidelines to address illegal activities. We shall intensify patrols, ambushes, spot checks and intelligence gathering in and around protected areas to protect the wildlife from poachers and preserve the integrity of protected areas.

UWA appeals to the general public to work closely with the institution in addressing and combating wildlife crime as patriotic citizens. Wildlife is important to this country and is one of the top three leading contributors to the GDP that it should be a concern of everybody and not UWA alone to combat poaching and other illegal activities. We are open to criticism which is positive and genuine for the betterment of our country. We can only achieve much as a country if we work together and join hands.

Conserving for Generations

Published in General News
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UWA Expands Chobe Tourism Game Drive Zone

Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) has completed construction works for Ayago Game drive tracks in Murchison Falls Conservation Area for the purpose of expanding the Chobe Tourism game drive zone.

According to the Conservation Area Manager, Mr. Tom Obong Okello, the tracks which were opened are complete and ready for use in the new circuit which is approximately 29 km from the famous Chobe Lodge.

The circuit consists of two sections; one along the Nile River making an estimated 10 km length. This begins at 29km point from Chobe along Chobe-Paraa road and ends at the confluence of Ayago and Nile Rivers where visitors who have arranged packed lunch can relax and enjoy the serene view of the wide confluence before embarking on other activities.

Two other points have also been opened which can only be accessed by foot trails to the river. The cars can be parked a few metres before the river banks.

Another section of the circuit is situated across the road with an estimated length of 6kmsnaking along the valley with streams and salt leaks which attract a number of animals. UWA management is optimistic that this new spectacular site of tourism adventure will add great value to the visitor satisfaction.   

Student Trip to Murchison Falls

Published in General News

By Mucureezi Lindsay, Gayaza High School

On the 13th August 2012 I took part in the essay writing competition discussing climatic change and wildlife organized by Uganda wildlife Authority. This competition propelled me to make a serious research on climatic change and wild life, a thing I had never thought of doing. As I researched I started to discover the interest that I had in the wildlife. For participating in this competition we as participants were sponsored for a fully paid trip to the Murchison falls National Park in the western side of Uganda by Uganda Wildlife Authority management.

On the 9th August 2012, as I arrived I could not hold the excitement and anticipation to have fun. The journey from Kampala was not one I can call short but as we stepped through Masindi and into the wild I could not deny that I felt different with the green vegetation surrounding us in the new natural breeze causing me to forget the smell of the fumes. I quietly thought to myself the beauty of the natural forests as we passed through the extension of Budongo forest. Even before we could reach our destination, the play full baboons welcomed us into the park.

On reaching the bank of the Victoria Nile, we got the chance of riding on the ferry across the river to where we were going to stay. Here still the play full baboons did not hesitate to show us that their favorite food was the sweet bananas and they were yet to teach us that in a park we ought to take care of our property. They surely displayed to us just little of the animal wisdom that we were yet to learn.

The following day we rushed through our breakfast as we hurried for our boat ride on the Victoria Nile. On our ride we got to see a few of the rich animal diversity population in Murchison Falls National Park. It was a ride that got to open my eyes to the beauty of nature. We saw the various schools of hippos, the water bucks, various birds like the African fish eagle, and the Goliath heron and even the crocodiles. The beautiful scenery of Nyamusika cliff is not something one would want to take their eyes off. It is here that you realize a simple bird just looks too beautiful, simple trees make a big difference and fat hippos playing in the water looks so adorable with the cool weather and calm water soothing one’s mind. The spectacular scenery of the Murchison falls leaves you speechless and wondering if this is part of the seven wonders and as for the river beds let you imagine you could walk through them into the jungle.

After our break from the boat ride we made our way further into the savannah forest woodland and grass land vegetation led by the man that I will live to respect our tour guide George who captured our attention with the different animal stories and sounds that quickly spread his love and excitement for the animals having us all with our eyes set to see the animals, the first animal being the giraffe. Now for the giraffe I can say it was breath taking with its beautiful colours, gracefulness, and elegancy. We got to see many animals, the Uganda Kob, and crested cranes, the antelopes and some of the “big five” including the buffalos, the elephants, and most amusingly the lion. I know I got a story that I will live to tell as I saw a lion ran to kill a Kob with my own eyes. For every single animal we saw, we were able to have a satisfactory close look to leave us in awe.

From the ride around the national park we prepared for the camp fire where we shared in the meat roasting. The tour guide George left us inspired as he talked about the wildlife with all the wisdom and authority. He told us many more stories including his own life experience with eight lions and he also taught us animal sounds. We even got to act out an animal story making us feel like we were back in the days, having the feel of the true African culture.

This whole experience of the beautiful scenery, the wild animals, the green vegetation, the feel of being surrounded with beauty left me sure that in a way I thought I was going to just have fun and play around had discovered a precious pearl that lied in Uganda and Africa at large. It left me thinking how unknowingly and carelessly we are as humans tossing away a pearl that many come to seek and see from a far because they are not blessed as we, to possess it. I saw a precious pearl of great wealth surrounding us. From each and every thing that I set my eyes on I can now proudly say I have proof that Uganda is the ‘PEARL OF AFRICA’. But it also left me thinking if in the future our great grand children would ever see this wonder and beauty because of the rate at which we are knowingly and unknowingly destroying the wildlife through our different human activities. The variety of animals, plants, their habitats and their genes on which so much of human life depends, is one of the  our most pressing crises. It is estimated that the current species extinction rate is higher than it would naturally be. The main drivers of this loss are converting natural areas to farming and urban development, introducing invasive alien species, polluting or over-exploiting resources including water and soils and harvesting wild plants and animals at unsustainable levels.

Significant progress towards disaster reduction will require us enhancing capacities and reducing vulnerabilities, which includes arresting environmental degradation and improving management of ecosystems and natural resources.

For I cannot deny that I left the national park a different person with a strong passion for the wildlife; thinking of ways I could make a difference in their lives yearning to be another George that could talk to the animals and about them like their friend with wisdom and authority. But I well know I cannot do this on my own but can only work as a team to protect that pearl that many search for and yet we freely have, a pearl that is priceless, a pearl that once thrown away will never be recovered. Let’s work as a team as Ugandans and Africans at large to treasure and protect that so that that in the future to come we will be among the few that still hold their pearl with love and delicacy. Let us treasure the precious pearl that we freely hold and that pearl lies in our hands, ‘’the beautiful wildlife”.    

Published in General News

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