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SOS Rhino : In the News : Kampala Game Meat Trade Threatens Wildlife

Kampala Game Meat Trade Threatens Wildlife

  New Vision (Kampala)

May 9, 2005
Posted to the web May 9, 2005

Gerald Tenywa

IT takes a three-hours drive northwards to escape the fumes of Kampala and enter Ngoma, a natural paradise in Luweero.

It is made up of acacia trees, a bewildering profusion of plant life and wild beauties. Here, the nomadic pastoralists have always lived alongside leopards, lions and antelopes.

However, massive poaching and the game meat trade in Kampala are threatening the unprotected wildlife sanctuary.

"This is one area well endowed with wild animals," says Uganda Wildlife Authority's (UWA) acting head Moses Mapesa.

He adds that the animals should be used as assets to promote tourism.

Parts of Luweero, Nakasongola, Mubende and Kiboga districts form what is left of the game corridor. The shrinking corridor, popularly known as the Kafu Basin, connects Murchison Falls National Park and Karuma Wildlife Reserve to the protected areas in western Uganda.

Over the years, the corridor has turned into 'killing fields'.

"If we check the wanton killings, the wild animal population can recover," says Mapesa.

Wildlife population increased during the Liberation War (1980-1985). The wild game thrived because there was little intrusion from the people since most had deserted the area.

Poachers now have no respect for the area, which was a hunting ground for Buganda's royals. Because they went there occasionally, hunting was regulated.

UWA has been grappling with the problem of illegal hunting.

"Although a ban was imposed on hunting about two decades ago, it is difficult to enforce it outside the protected areas," says Mapesa.

Sources say poachers and settlers kill wild animals, which are now receding in numbers.

Wildlife sources in Ngoma say they have now blocked the pastoralists, who used to move through the cattle corridor. Their corridor stretched from northern Tanzania through central Uganda to Karamoja.

However, a recent survey conducted by UWA shows that a significant number of animals still exist in the area. But the existing laws, the Wildlife Act, Forest Act and the Local Government Act, have not been implemented so as to benefit from the animals without destroying them.

The Wildlife Act outlaws hunting because poachers kill animals indiscriminately, which is not sustainable.

Mapesa says the Wildlife Law provides for sport hunting, which has created incentives for communities such as those on the ranches outside Lake Mburo National Park.

One buffalo can fetch as much as $600 (about sh1m) and the proceeds are shared between landowners, local governments and associations that manage the game.

They have subsequently built schools and health centres out of the proceeds, according to a report, Benefits beyond boundaries, presented at the World Park Congress in South Africa two years ago.

"This is more than the the sh50,000 poachers get from a carcass of a buffalo," Mapesa adds.

The same venture can be introduced in Luweero to add value to wildlife.

When that is done, wildlife management can out-compete other forms of land use such as the destructive charcoal burning. Residents would protect animals by curbing poaching.

"UWA has organised meetings in Luweero and Nakasongola to sensitise residents on the various options of tourism, including sport hunting," says Obong Okello, a UWA official.

District officials, including John Ngodwe, the acting vermin control officer, say some cultivators and herdsmen see wild animals as a nuisance.

"Because of the increasing population, there is massive destruction of wildlife habitats," Ngodwe says.

Out of 21 sub-counties in Luweero, 18 are inhabited by vervet monkeys, bush pigs and baboons, which disturb farmers.

Farmers say the animals destroy crops and are responsible for food insecurity.

Ngondwe says pastoralists can live side-by-side with the wild animals, except the lions and leopards, which attack them and their livestock. However, landowners and the districts need to work together to change tourism into a viable land use.

UWA officials say areas, which get less than 1,000mm of rainfall a year, are not suitable for agriculture and overgrazing would destroy the ecologically sensitive areas.

"The wild animals are adapted to this area and if they are wiped out, the human population should expect disastrous consequences," says Okello.

Meanwhile, donor agencies have supported Rhino Fund-Uganda and UWA to establish a breeding sanctuary of rhinos at Ziwa Ranchers in Nakasongola.

This could spur private initiatives of wildlife management. It could act as a model of partnership, which is part of the new global thinking of natural resources management.

So, both the locals and conservationists will benefit as the welfare of the communities would improve and the wildlife be spared.

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