Invasive species eat up Queen Elizabeth National Park
FAITH MORIAH MUNDUA
Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) with support from the National invasive species research unit of National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO) has embarked on a campaign to save the wildlife in Queen Elizabeth National Park which is threatened by invasive plant species.
Nearly half of the park which occupies an estimated 1,978 square kilometres (764 sq miles) is covered with invasive species such as sickle bush, congress weed and spear grass among others which are forcing the wildlife out of the park.
Invasive species are plants or other living organisms that are not native to a given eco system.
According to Dr Peter Baine, a research officer at National invasive species research unit, an aero survey revealed that nearly 40 percent of the park has been eaten up by the invasive plant species.
“The sickle bush which forms a canopy, releases chemicals that kill all the grass underneath while the congress weed affects the digestive system of the animals, affects their hearing and eye sight, and, if the animals are breastfeeding and eat it, it affects the milk and the young one may die,” Dr Baine said.
Outgoing UWA executive director Dr Andrew Seguya said, the conservation body has taken several years studying the problem and the best ways of eliminating the weeds.
“We have been studying this problem for so long with other sister agencies trying to understand whether we can eliminate it manually. This a pilot we are conducting here, we are uprooting the invasive species and burn them,” Dr Seguya said.
Once the uprooting and burning is done, Dr Baine said, the team will embark on another phase of restoring the original eco-system.
“We are trying to roll out proven science systems to see whether we can restore the eco-system here. We intend to plant pastures that favour the grazing of animals,” Dr Baine said.
The State Minister of Tourism and Wildlife Godfrey Kiwanda Ssuubi launched the exercise on March 22.
“We are losing all the grass in the national parks because of the invasive species, that is why we have an increase in human-wildlife conflicts because the wildlife goes out of the park into people’s fields in search of pastures since the (invasive) species have destroyed all the savannah,” Kiwanda said.
Cases of animals straying from Queen Elizabeth National Park borders are common in the districts of Kasese, Rubirizi, Kanungu, Ibanda, Mitooma, Rukungiri and Kamwenge that share boundaries with Uganda’s second largest national park.