By Fred Kiva, Masindi
Communities neighboring Murchison Falls National Park are demanding compensation for life and property loss caused by wild animals. Murchison Falls National Park is bordered by Kiryandongo, Masindi, Nwoya, Oyam, Buliisa and the new Pakwach district.
During an engagement with Uganda Wildlife Authority officials at Country Inn Hotel in Masindi on Thursday, the community leaders complained that wild animals have continued to wreck havoc in the neighbouring areas, but nothing is done to compensate residents for the loss.
The Chairperson of Panyimur Sub county, Pakwach district, Mr. Shaban Ofoi Kinobe, said animals destroy crop gardens and sometimes kill residents.
“When residents kill the animals, a punishment is severe but when the animals kill our people or destroy crops nothing is done. As if animals are more important to you (Uganda Wildlife Authority) than people!” Ofoi wondered.
The Chairman of Kiryandongo Sub county, Kiryandongo district, Mr. Edward Mpangire Mapapali, stressed the need for the government to think of compensating the park communities for any loss suffered at the hands of wild animals. He says this will enhance the human/wildlife relations.
Mapapali says sometimes community members resort to harassing wild animals in retaliation after destruction of their crops or killing of their relatives.
“Recently in Kicwabugingo village, residents wanted to impound elephants for continuously straying into their gardens. Imagine these are deadly wild animals; this is how frustrated our communities are” He observed.
The community concerns came the same day government tabled a new bill that will provide for compensation for loss occasioned by animals escaping from wildlife protected areas.
The Uganda Wildlife Bill, 2017 was tabled by Government Chief Whip Ruth Nankabirwa in a plenary session chaired by Deputy Speaker Jacob Oulanyah on Thursday.
On top of crop destruction, of recent stray wild animals have been attacking and killing people in areas neighbouring Murchison Falls National Park. In May this year a crocodile devoured three people in
Kayera village, Kimengo Sub County, Masindi district. None of the deceased families was compensated for the lives lost. Uganda Wildlife Authority officials only helped to capture and relocate the killer crocodile.
The Director In charge Conservation at the Uganda Wildlife Authority, John Makombo, hopes the bill will help the Authority deal with the compensation concerns raised by park neighbouring communities.