By Abraham Kizza
Eight lions including 3 lionesses and 5 cubs have been found dead near Hamukungu fishing village, Busongola Sub County, Kasese district in Queen Elizabeth National Park.
Jossy Muhangi, Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) Spokesperson who regretted the incident, told Kampala Post that the animals were found dead on Wednesday.
“Although we are still waiting for a postmortem report from our veterinary doctors, we highly suspect the animals to have been poisoned by some residents mostly pastoralists near the area,” Muhangi said on Thursday.
He explained that these big cats could have been poisoned by pastoralists in retaliation after straying and preying on their animals most especially calves.
“When these lions kill a calf, they eat it; sometimes they don’t finish it so they can come back the next day to eat the remaining meat. Cattle keepers could have used that opportunity to poison the remaining meat so when these lionesses and cubs came back for their prey, they ate it and died,” Muhangi said.
According to information on the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) website, in Uganda, lions are mainly found in the three largest savannah parks: Murchison Falls National Park (MFNP), Kidepo Valley National Park (KVNP) and Queen Elizabeth National Park (QENP). In QENP, the Ishasha lions are known for their unique behavior of climbing trees and have been branded the "Ishasha tree-climbing lions" by tourists.
Information on WCS website further shows that the lion population in the Ishasha sector of QENP has declined over the years: the number of Ishasha lions per square kilometre declined from 6 lions per 100 km2 to 4 lions per 100km2 in the last 10 years.
“The two main threats to lions in QENP are snaring and conflict with pastoralists following predation of livestock or injury to humans. The majority of livestock keepers do not attend to their animals especially at night, which leaves them susceptible to lion predation. This human-lion conflict often triggers the retaliatory poisoning of the cattle carcasses killed by the lions and death of any animal that then feeds on it,” WCS adds.
UWA Spokesperson Muhangi said that such incidents have been happening mentioning the recent having happened in Busongola areas where pastoralists poisoned lions after preying on their animals.
He however said that the conflict between lions and pastoralists could be solved through kicking the cattle keepers out of areas around the park.