Conservationists protest UWA killing of lion

lion-150x150A lion that was shot and killed by rangers of the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) in Bukanga, Isingiro district- western Uganda has attracted angry reactions from wildlife conservationists. “I was ready to go and rescue the lion,” said Siefert Ludwig, a Makerere University lecturer and lion expert.

“This was probably a different lion as the one in Lake Mburo is collared and this one was not. It was about 150km away from the Park and could have come from Tanzania. We didn’t have intentions of killing this lion as the nearest vet in Queen Elizabeth National Park (QENP) was informed but was out on another exercise and while the vet team in QENP assembled the required equipment for darting and moving this lion, the situation on ground became worse. Three persons were injured by the lion and it was being followed by a huge crowd and approaching a trading centre. We risked saving the lion and loosing people who became difficult to control even with the help of DPC Isingiro and a painful decision had to be made” said Charles Tumwesigye Deputy Director Conservation at Uganda Wildlife Authority.

Jossy Muhangi – UWA’s Public Relations Manager says, “We are trying to see how to help those that were injured with medical expenses“. The lion, according to the local residents hurt three people, one of them seriously before they run out of patience and mounted a hunt for it. The lion, according to Muhangi could have strayed from Akagera National Park in Rwanda or parts of northern Tanzania and was probably tracing a migratory route for large mammals to Lake Mburo National Park. The migratory route s also referred to as migratory corridors for wildlife are being blocked by human settlements and farmland across the country.

Richard Kimbowa, the director of Uganda Coalition for Sustainable Development, observed that UWA and environmental agencies should have done better. “That lion should have been relocated but creation of awareness would help human beings and wild animals to co-exist. Wild animals keep on moving because they need food and water. This is becoming scarce because of Climate Change,” said Kimbowa.

Charles Tumwesigye proposed that for a way forward, “UWA is to have fully a fledged vet unit in each National Park that can swiftly respond to such situations“. These are real conservation challenges he added.

However, this raised concern from Mr Mapesa Moses – Former Executive Director at UWA who observed that, “even if we had a vet unit in Lake Mburo, dealing with a crowd of enraged people and after injuries is quite difficult! Besides I doubt if a vet unit in each Conservation Area is cost effective. Maybe what is cost effective is to have an animal capture team in each Conservation Area with pra-vet rangers. But painful decisions will still have to be made depending on circumstances“.

Six years ago, a lion was sighted in Lake Mburo National Park a decade after lions were declared extinct in the park. “The lion is doing fine,” according to Ludwig Siefert, a Makerere University lecturer and expert on lion conservation. The killing of the lion in Isingiro comes hot on the heels of another incident at Bwera, Kasese district in which UWA officials killed a calf of an elephant.

“On another note does the lone collared lion in Lake Mburo have a future in the park given the livestock pressure. It should be moved to Queen Elizabeth National Park” Mr Mapesa added.

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