The death of three female lions in Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth National Park on April 25 has raised concerns about the safety of wildlife in the reserve. While the official said these lions died due to electric current, in the past wild animals have been killed by poisoning.
Referring to the death of six lions in 2021, John Mwanje, a warden in the park said the poison had killed them along with eight vultures. He said that body parts of lions were missing and four people suspected to have been involved were arrested by police.
In another similar incident, in 2018 a pride of 11 lions, including eight cubs, were found dead. They were also poisoned. Wildlife authorities blamed cattle keepers for poisoning them to save their livestock.
The Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA)-- a semi-autonomous government agency – has reported the death of another lion early this month blaming residents of Kobushera village, near Queen Elizabeth game park for the killing. The lion is believed to have strayed and killed their cows.
According to Bashir Hangi, spokesman of UWA, the killing of lions and other animals in the game parks affects the tourism industry in the country.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, he said the lions are the biggest attraction for tourists to visit the Queen Elizabeth National Park which hosts about 200 lions. He said that some people suspected to be involved in the killings have been arrested by police and charged in courts of law.
“The killing of lions affects tourism in the country. When people out there hear that lions in the game parks are being killed in big numbers, they lose interest in coming to visit the game parks,” he said.
Describing tourism as the backbone of the country’s economy, he said those trying to sabotage it will be seriously dealt with. According to Uganda’s bureau of statistics, the country earns $1.6 billion annually from the tourism sector.
Increase in poaching
According to UWA, the cases of killing and poaching animals in game parks have recently gone up and the situation worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown.
“Unemployed people living near the game parks have resorted to poaching and selling game meat to survive, which is unfortunate. Poaching must be brought to an end,” said Prime Minister Robinah Nabanja while visiting western Uganda recently.
According to Uganda Wildlife Authority, last year between February and June, 367 poaching cases were recorded across the country which is higher than 163 cases recorded during the same period in 2020.
A recent Wildlife Trafficking Assessment report identified Uganda as one of the common transits of wildlife products in the Central and East African regions.
A tourism agent in Kampala, Martin Mugalu told Anadolu Agency that lions attract most of the tourists. “Therefore, killing them is dangerous to the country’s tourism,” he said.
He urged the government to ensure that lions are given maximum protection in the national game park.
Nelson Coleman, a tourist from the UK said he has come all along to see lions in Uganda. He said he was excited to see a lion for the first time in his life at the Murchison National Game Park.
“When I decided to visit Murchison national game park, I was interested in looking at the king of the jungle, the lion. Because there are few lions, it took me two days before I was able to look at them. There is a need to increase the number of lions in that game park,” he said.