Uganda strives to save
lions following poisoning
KAMPALA (Xinhua) --
The death of 11 lions in Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth
National Park left many conservationists perturbed on whether
the east African country was making progress in saving the big
As news filtered in on April 12 that three lionesses and
eight cubs were poisoned to death by some elements in a nearby
community in retaliation for the killing of their cattle,
Ephraim Kamuntu, minister of tourism, rushed to the park,
located in the western part of the country.
Since then, three suspects have been arrested and the
government is threatening to evict the Hamukungu fishing village
from the precincts of the park.
"Government made a mistake to allow pastoralists in this
"You are all suspects as per now until you bring us those who
keep killing our icons," Kamuntu said, according to the Daily
Monitor on Monday.
This is not the first time lions are being killed by
cattle-keeping communities around the national park.
In 2007, 13 lions were poisoned and in 2010, eight were
This time around, Kamuntu said, the government is not going
to handle the perpetrators softly, warning that if the community
does not identify them, the government may resolve that the
community stops raring cattle.
In the meeting convened by Kamuntu, the community reasoned
that they have lost several animals to lions.
The pastoralists argue that despite reporting to the
authorities, no action is taken.
The United Nations says lions and other charismatic predators
are facing many and varied threats, which are mostly caused by
Overall, their populations are declining at a disturbing rate
due to loss of habitat and prey, conflicts with people, poaching
and illegal trade.
Figures from the International Union for Conservation of
Nature show that populations of African lions have declined by
42 percent over the past over 20 years.
In Uganda, a recent census put the country’s count of lions
at 420, compared to 1,000 in 1990.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, in a statement issued
in commemoration of the World Wildlife Day on March 3, called
for personal action to help ensure the survival of the world’s
big cats and all its precious and fragile biological diversity.
According to Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), a state agency
charged with conservation, the country gets 50 percent of the
revenue from Queen Elizabeth National Park from visitors who
come to see lions.
The agency says out of 10 tourists who visit the park, five
want to see lions, meaning that half of the 6 billion shillings
(1.7 million U.S. dollars) comes out of lions.
Lions and other big cats like cheetahs and leopards are an
important tourism attraction in Uganda.
They are second only to the mountain gorilla as the
Tourism is Uganda’s main foreign exchange earner.
It contributed up to 1.35 billion dollars to the export
basket in 2016.
Minister Kamuntu says there is need to create awareness about
the value of wildlife, especially for the lions, cheetahs and
leopard that are under major threat.
The public needs to work toward preserving wildlife, as it
provides enormous opportunities, especially in tourism, he said.
Organizations like the Uganda Carnivore Program are helping
to create awareness on the protection of the cats, especially
among communities around Queen Elizabeth National Park.
Working with the UWA and Makerere University, Uganda
Carnivore Program conducts school and community outreaches.
On the other hand, the government has enacted policies and
laws that promote wildlife conservation.
In one of the proposed laws, if one is found guilty of
poaching and illegal wildlife trade, they face a maximum
sentence of life in prison.
The country has also established a dedicated court to deal
with wildlife-related crimes.
'Just an attempt by just one person to kill wildlife can
have extremely severe consequences'
Several lions again dead in Uganda Western National Park in
likely poisoning by herdsmen