Lions and elephants in Queen Elizabeth National park are among the most protected species that have a high potential of tourist attraction. Until recently, poachers used conventional methods of long range shooting to kill the animals upon realisation that this alerted the game rangers, the attackers have now poisoning.
According Mr Nelson Guma, the area Conservation Manager, the lions are killed by herdsmen who graze in the park illegally in the night mostly in areas where they have unsettled land conflicts with the park management.
“Pastoralists graze in the park due to scarcity of pasture as a result of other indigenous plants like the Lantana Camara and the Parthenium weed which have colonized their grazing lands,” he said.
Guma also stressed that the lions access and kill the cows as they graze in the park and in seeking retribution, the herdsmen poison the caucus of the cows and it’s the poison that kills the lions whenever they return to eat the meat. At least 3 lions out of the 140 in the park have so far been found dead
The elephants on the other hand are also poisoned by the poachers who smear poison on different crops in gardens that they know elephants like most. When they cross to raid people’s plantations outside the protected area, the elephants feed on the poisoned crops and soon or later, they die.
Explaining this tactic, Guma said the poachers then follow the elephants in close distance and when they die, they take the ivory and leave them to rot in the wilderness adding that this process has so far claimed 5 elephant lives.
In defence, the park management has embarked on excavating a network of trenches and electing beehives in an attempt to stop both the herdsmen and elephants from encroaching on each other’s land
“Over 177kilometres of trenches have so far been dug and we are in the process of empowering the natives to elect bee hives around their gardens as one of the defence mechanisms so that when the elephants approach, they get stung by the bees and they’ll run away,” Guma elaborated.
He also said about shs3billion is required to implement the interventions in areas like Kasese-Ruhingo, Rubirizi-Kafuro and along the Ishasha-Bukorwe border where such activities have been reported most.
The Chimpanzee and Alcohol:
Meanwhile the Chimpanzees, another group of valued species within the National park also face predatory threats from carnivores after they developed a new habit of drinking alcohol.
Guma said that due the prevalent drought and lack of sufficient fruits in the Kyambura area, the Chimps have started to cross to peoples gardens for supplementary foods and in the process, they encroach on people’s locally brewed alcohol and they get drunk exposing them to risk of being preyed by carnivores especially the Leopards.
“When they get drunk, they lack instincts of self-survival. They start drumming excessively and celebrating yet several other animals in here don’t like noise,” he said.
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