Poisoned Lions: UWA hunts for killers

Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) has launched a hunted for herdsmen who could poisoned lions in Queen Elizabeth National Park.

On Wednesday April 11, UWA announced the death of 11 lions in Queen Elizabeth National Park which are suspected to have been poisoned by cattle keepers in Kasese district.

The carcass’ of these lions – three adult lioness and 8 cubs were found at Hamukungu fishing village which is located within the protected area.

According to Professor Ephraim Kamuntu, the Minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, it is suspected that the lions were poisoned intentionally by an unknown cattle keeper with in Hamukungu village.

“This is not the first time such an incidence has happened as a result of human wildlife conflict. We lost another pride of 9 lions in 2007 suspected to have been poisoned by the herdsmen illegally using the Park as a grazing ground,” Kamuntu said in a statement issued on Friday.

It is suspected that the lions were intentionally fed on poisoned meat.
This is not the first time that Uganda is lions due to human-wildlife conflict.
In 2007, nine lions were lost in the same national park.

The recent attack on the treasured beasts came a month after conservationists converged in Kasese to commemorate the World Wildlife Day on March 3 with a theme that focussed on creating a safe environment for the survival of the big cats.

The big cats of Uganda comprise of the leopard (panther pardus), the lion panther Leo and the cheetah acinonyx jubatus.). These cats are mostly found in Queen Elizabeth national park, Kidepo valley national park, Semiliki wildlife reserve and L. Mburo Nation Park.

Big cats are Uganda’s most endangered species according to the convention on international trade in endangered species. (CITIES).

“The killing of lions impacts heavily on tourism and revenue generation as most of the tourists who come to the savannah parks of Uganda are more interested in lion activities,” Kamuntu said.

“We condemn in the strongest terms possible such an act of deliberately killing animals which are now a top foreign exchange earner to the country contributing 10% of GDP and 23% of the total foreign exports,” he added.

Nature tourism is currently contributing $1.4 bn (Shs 5.1trillion) to the economy 20% of which is ploughed back to communities neighbouring the parks.

Apart from revenue, there are other collaborative initiatives where communities benefit directly from the National Park such as access to resources like fuel wood, grass, water, fish, bee keeping which is valued at over Shs 400m a year.

“It is therefore unfortunate that such an economically vibrant resource is maliciously being exterminated by selfish Individuals that are negative towards the development of the communities and the country at large,” Kamuntu said.

THE HUNT

Kamuntu said that a case had already been reported to the police and a number of stakeholders have joined in the effort to find the suspects.

“We are working closely with other relevant authorities and stakeholders to pursue this matter until the perpetrators of this heinous act are brought to book and face the full extent of the law,” the minister said.

The killing of lions, Kamuntu said, does not however translate into insecurity in the national parks.

“Our national parks are safe for visitors with all the attractions therein that we are naturally gifted with as a country. The loss of the pride does not mean that we have lost all the lions, we have more lions including tree climbing lions in Ishasha. We shall continue to strengthen the protection of lions and other wildlife life through other innovations including coming up with appropriate interventions in human wildlife conflict management,” Kamuntu said.

Currently, Queen Elizabeth National Park is estimated to have total population of 200 lions.