The Minister of Tourism Wildlife and Antiquities, Col. (Rtd) Tom R. Butime today officially opened the CMS/CITES African Carnivores Initiative (ACI) meeting at Protea Hotel in Entebbe. The week-long meeting has attracted more than 80 delegates comprising over 42 participants from African carnivore range States (out of the known 48 range States), 30 civil society organisations, development partners and United Nations technical staff.
The ACI seeks to promote and facilitate activities that contribute to the conservation of the four carnivore species namely; the African lion, leopard, Cheetah and wild dog.
The Minister highlighted that, Uganda remains an important home range to the three species of carnivores (lion, leopards and Cheetah). He observed that the hunting dog population has sadly been exterminated. He pointed out that, the populations of the four species is equally under immense threat largely from habitat loss, poaching, retaliatory killings and illegal trade.
He emphasised the need to strengthen cooperation among range states to curtail poaching and illegal trade, enforcement of the relevant legal provisions to deal with habitual wildlife criminals. The Minister encouraged parties to enhance protection of the carnivores through development and timely implementation of conservation frameworks, ensuring that any use of the species is sustainable and legal, and that illegal killing, including poisoning, is prevented.
He further noted the need to conserve and restore the prey population in order to provide and maintain adequate food sources for the carnivores as well as restore their habitats and mitigate human-carnivore conflicts. This he said can be done by engaging affected communities and governmental, public and private institutions, and by providing socio-economic benefits and improved livelihoods to local communities living with or adjacent to carnivores.
It has been observed that, in the few decades, the leopard population has declined by 30%, lion by 43%, Cheetah by 30% and Hunting dog by 17%. The meeting will discuss and agree on the best practices and urgent interventions to halt population decline and potential extinction of the Carnivores.