Lwengo, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Sixty crested cranes have killed in various wetlands in Lwengo district within a space of two weeks. Dr. Adalbert Ainomuchunguzi, the regional manager of International Crane Foundation (ICF) in East Africa says that they found the bodies of the crested cranes during their survey to identify and protect their habitats.
Ainomuchunguzi whose organisation has launched a campaign to save the grey-crowned crested crane, says the birds are so far the most endangered species of the African cranes. He says that being a national symbol, the precious national emblem is protected under Uganda Wildlife (UWA) Act 2019 but people have refused to respect it.
The UWA Act serves to provide for the conservation and sustainable management of wildlife, to strengthen wildlife conservation and management, to streamline the roles and responsibilities of institutions involved in wildlife conservation and management among others.
According to the Act, any person who hunts, traps, kills, sells, or even buys the crane commits an offence, and on conviction, he or she can be liable to a fine or to life imprisonment or even both according to the discretion of the court.
However, Ainomuchuguzi explains that several people have ignorantly encroached on several wetlands especially Kiyanja-Kanku where the cranes largely breed. He notes that they destroy eggs and deliberately kill both young and adult cranes for eating their crops.
He adds that in the last 40 years, the crested crane species in the country has declined by 80 percent.
Wilfred Mugumya, the Lwengo Deputy Chief Administrative Officer has condemned the increasing encroachment on the wetlands, saying this will cost the country its precious birds. He says that the unchecked practice has also contributed to climate change and urges the district environment authorities to act fast before they lose all the wetlands.
He appealed to the 19 crane custodians who have voluntarily come out to conserve the birds to sensitise their respective communities about their importance. Miriam Kagaiga Mugisha, the Deputy Lwengo Resident District Commissioner has directed police to investigate the farmers who killed the cranes and bring them to justice.
She has also tasked the district environment officer to evict all farmers from wetlands and to arrest them for violation of the environmental protection laws.
Collins Olanya, the head of the Directorate of Environment Affairs in the Ministry of Water and Environment has appealed to the district authorities to wake up, monitor and protect all wetlands from encroachment. He asked the police environmental protection division in Lwengo to cooperate with environment officials to evict people from the protected areas.
Christopher Ssensalire, the Lwengo Deputy LC 5 chairperson says the district is capable of attracting tourists from across the country and the world at large if the wetlands are protected. He noted that Lwengo has no freshwater sources and communities are reliant on the wetlands for water which is why they are pushing for their protection. Ssensalire says that they have launched a campaign to plant 25,000 trees in the district to fight climate change.