Maria Mutagamba, Uganda’s new minister of tourism, wildlife and antiquities has refuted recent media reports about an escalation in poaching in most of Uganda’s protected areas which created the impression that Uganda’s wildlife is on the verge of extinction.
While speaking to the media in Kampala on Sept. 11, Mutagamba noted that the impression created by the media reports that Uganda’s wildlife is at the verge of extinction and that Uganda Wildlife Authority is not doing much to control the vice is an exaggeration of the problem.
She did not dispute reports that over the last four years, there has been a recorded increase in poaching activity, especially of elephants. But she said poaching of elephants was increasing all over the continent and not only in Uganda.
She said despite isolated incidents of poaching, the Uganda Wildlife Authority’s last large mammal census revealed that the elephant numbers for Queen Elizabeth National Park had increased from 400 in 1988 to 2,959 in 2010. The population of buffaloes also rose from 5,000 to 14,858 in the same period and hippos from 2,200 to 5,024.
She said law enforcement capacity of UWA has been growing, with the introduction of the Uganda Tourism Police, while the Uganda army has also been providing additional support.
Stephen Sanyi Masaba, the acting director, tourism and business services at UWA, said poaching affects all of Uganda’s national parks with the hotspots being Lake Mburo National Park, Murchison Falls National Park, and Queen Elizabeth National Park. These protected areas are all closer to settler communities with increasing pressure on land to grow food crops.
“We are recruiting 300 more rangers to improve that force. An intelligence force is also about to get on board,” Masaba said.
Masaba said poaching was partly on the increase all across the region because it has grown into big business with the perpetrators increasingly employing sophisticated weapons and vehicles.
But the government through UWA, police and other agencies has been decisive in handling matters of poaching with poachers being arrested, prosecuted and ivory confiscated in accordance with the law.
Three pieces of ivory have recently been recovered together with an automatic rifle which was used in the brutal killing of the two elephants in QENP. The suspects were arraigned before the second Division Court Martial in Mbarara where they were charged.
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