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Uganda Wildlife Authority has registered success in the struggle to save Uganda's elephants. Courtesy Photo.

UWA's Long Journey to Save Uganda's Elephants

UWA's long journey to save Uganda's elephants started in 1996 after its establishment following the merger of the Uganda National Parks and the Game Department. Since then, the agency has registered success in the struggle.
posted onNovember 16, 2017
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By Abraham Kizza
 
Elephants in Uganda are once again in danger of being extinct as poaching for ivory remains order of the day over high demand in Asian countries of China and Thailand. 
 
According to Uganda Conservation Foundation, in the last five years, the price of ivory has rocketed with reports of Asian dealers paying in excess of $1,000 (above 3,500,000) per kilo for the tip of the tusk alone. 
 
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, elephant poaching for ivory and bush meat remains extreme.
 
In 1989, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) introduced a ban in International trade of ivory. The move has played a vital role in recovering of elephant population not only in Uganda but worldwide.
 
However, the ban did not register complete success as anticipated as elephants were continuously killed specifically for their tusks which are carved into jewellery and ornaments.
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Confiscated Ivory. Courtesy Photo.

Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) has tried to address the issue of poaching through deploying of patrols in all protected areas and arresting people found invading park land without permission from the Authority.

UWA's long Journey to save elephants
 
UWA's long journey to save Uganda's elephants started in 1996 after its establishment following the merger of the Uganda National Parks and the Game Department. Since then, the agency has registered success in the struggle.
 
UWA Spokesperson, Jossy Muhangi says that Uganda lost most of its elephants during the ancient regimes when poaching was not legally condemned. He adds that the elephant number is currently increasing due to measures undertaken by the government to curb the practice (poaching).
 
"We are putting in place a lot of measures to safeguard our elephants such as deploying of intelligence units, canine units and other protection measures to reduce on the practice of poaching of elephants in our game parks," Muhangi said in an interview with the Kampala Post.
 
According to the latest estimates from the International Union for Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) African Elephant Specialist Group report, in 2016, Queen Elizabeth Conservation Area had the largest number of elephants with 2904 followed by Murchison Falls Conservation Area with 1,352 animals, Kidepo Valley National Park with 621 and others.
 
Meanwhile, elephant habitat is disappearing due to the expansion of human population which has converted more land to agriculture.
 
Sometimes, people get into contact with elephants which leads to elephants raiding and damaging of farmers' fields and even killing people. Occasionally, elephants are also killed in retaliation.
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Elephants straying into tea estates. Courtesy Photo.

A case in point was in July, 2017 when residents of Kicwabugingo village, Bweyale T/C, Kiryandongo District neighboring Murchison Falls National Park wanted to impound elephants for continuously straying into their gardens.

According to UWA website, the authority has tried to solve this problem by instituting a team of skilled staff to respond to reports about crop raiding and threats to livestock and to communities.
 
These are dealt with using methods such as scare shooting to chase the elephants back into the protected area; capturing and translocation; and sensitizing the communities.
 
"As a last resort, individual animals that fail to return to the protected area may be sport hunted or killed in order to reduce the threat. Those killed under sport hunting generate revenue for the communities through the hunting fees, which in turn discourages poaching and contributes to conservation," UWA website states.
 
Mr. Muhangi says that the number of elephants in our National Parks has increased in 2017 compared to early years of past regimes and insurgency wars. He attributes the increase to the relative peace in the country, different humanitarian organizations aimed at safeguarding elephants like the 'Giants Club' and efforts by the government through UWA to protect elephants.
 
UWA's partnership with Humanitarian organizations
 
Among the organizations established to save Uganda's elephants is the Giants Club which operates in several African countries including Uganda in partnership with UWA, Ugandan Tourist Board (UTB), United Nations Development Fund (UNDP) among others.
 
According to the records from the Giants Club, Uganda has the least number of elephants than other member countries with 7,849 elephants followed by Kenya with 25,959 elephants, then Gabon with 50,000 elephants and finally Botswana with 130,451 elephants
 
UWA's Muhangi, confirms this saying "It is true we have the least number of elephants compared to other member states which is over 5,000 elephants in Uganda with majority from Queen Elizabeth National Park, Murchison falls National Park and Kidepo Valley National park."
 
The Giants Club is a humanitarian organization which was founded by four African countries which are; Uganda, Kenya, Gabon and Botswana plus global business leaders and elephant protection experts with the major aim of combating the poaching crisis, securing Africa's remaining elephant populations and the landscapes they depend on.
 
On October 6, 2017, President, Yoweri Museveni hosted more than 100 delegates at the Giants Club Conservation and Tourism Investment Forum at the Lake Victoria Serena Golf Resort & Spa. The forum was intended to attract tourism in Uganda and securing long-term sources of funding for the protection and maintenance of Uganda's protected area network.
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President Museveni addressing a delegation atending the Uganda Giants’ Club Conservation and Tourism Investment Forum at Lake Victoria Serena Golf Resort & Spa on October 6. PPU Photo

 

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