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SOS Rhino : In the News : Ugandan animal population beginning to recover from turbulent past

Ugandan animal population beginning to recover from turbulent past

  Published: 08/16/2006 9:22:50am

Kampala- The big game population in Uganda's wildlife parks has been steadily rising after surviving near-extinction during the regimes of former President Idi Amin and those that followed the dictator's ouster in 1979, Uganda's top conservation official said Wednesday. While poachers were busy hunting down animals with impunity in Uganda's conservation areas during Amin's bloody rule, government security forces were doing exactly the same, pushing down the population of elephants from 30,000 in 1960 to less than 2,000 at the time of Amin's fall. The elephant population, mainly hunted for ivory, continued to fall, reaching 1,900 in 1996, but it has been rising steadily since then from 2,400 in 2003 to the current figure of 3,467, the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) executive director, Moses Mapesa, said in the government newspaper, The New Vision, Wednesday. The hippopotamus population which was 26,000 in 1960, was reduced by one half at the time of Amin's removal and fell to 4,200 in 1996. However, it started rising again, reaching 5,300 in 2003 and to 5,709 in 2005, UWA said. UWA could not provide the 1960 figures for the rare mountain gorillas, only found in the thick bamboo forest mountain enclave shared by Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, but said that they were 280 in 1983 and currently number 340. This is half of the world's remaining population of these endangered primates. There were no 1960 figures for chimpanzees available, but they were 3,300 in 1996 and have now risen to about 5,000. " We have been vigilantly enforcing conservation measures. There has been a dramatic decrease in poaching in the country during the past 15 years. We have had very isolated incidents of poaching. We have totally stamped out poaching for ivory in Uganda," Mapesa told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa in an interview Wednesday. The population of buffaloes which was 60,000 in 1960, was reduced by more than two thirds at the time of Amin's fall and reached 18,000 in 1996 before beginning to recover, reaching the current figure of 21,034. Some of the large mammal species, notably the rhinocerous, were completely wiped out from Uganda during the Amin era and the period following his ouster. The rhino population which stood at 300 in the 1960s, went down to 203 in 1983 and was non-existent by 1996 before 6 new species were imported and reintroduced in the game parks early this decade. Mapesa said that government support for vigorous conservation measures including the clamp down on poachers and classifying of more wildlife areas was responsible for the budding population of some big mammals. " Since 1986 when this government came to power, we have had a lot of political support. Since then, we have increased the number of national parks from four to 10. We now have ten national parks and 13 wildlife reserves. They have supported our efforts to clamp down on poachers," Mapesa added.

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