Friday, September 14, 2012

Minister says: No elephant poaching in Uganda

The New Minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities Maria Mutagamba 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. As she was speaking to the Media, she noted that the impression made by media reports that the country’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 also noted that Poaching of elephants was increasing all over the African continent and not only in Uganda.

She added that despite isolated incidents of poaching, the mammal census by the Uganda Wildlife Authority last carried out 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. Law enforcement capacity of UWA has been growing, with the introduction of the Uganda Tourism Police and the additional support from the Uganda National Army.

According to the acting Director of tourism and business Mr. Stephen Masaba, poaching affects all of Uganda’s national parks including Lake Mburo National Park, Murchison Falls National Park, and Queen ElizabethNational Park. These protected areas are all closer to settler communities with increasing pressure on land for Agriculture and to grow food crops. He also noted that recruitment process has began for more than 300 rangers to improve the intelligence force which is about to get on board. According to him, 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. However UWA with the help of the Government, police and other travel agencies have 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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