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Community participation saving lions’ population in Uganda

Male-Lion-in-Queen-ElizabethThe remaining populations of wild lions on the continent of Africa are entangled in a myriad of threats as population of humans continues to increase on the continent. This more apparent in the destination Uganda where the survey results that were published on the lion alert website by Okot Omonya et al. 2013 indicated that Uganda featured a population of 421 cats distributed in her protected areas where they are encountered on safaris in Uganda.
The Conservation Organization named the Uganda Carnivore Program (UCP) aimed at ensuring the continuity of the lions along with other carnivores like the Hyenas and the Leopards in Uganda is working with the Uganda safari protected area of Queen Elizabeth National Park with focus on scientific monitoring and research along with the Community Carnivore Project in Uganda that aims at creating relationship between the local / surrounding communities and the predators. The UCP also works with the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) the overall public Authority that is charged with monitoring and management of wildlife in both protected areas and beyond. Monica Tyler the Director and the Veterinarian along with the Large Predator Project head Dr. Ludwig Siefert are the spear headers towards the implementation of this initiative.
It can be noted that Agricultural encroachment is rampant on the margins of a range of Uganda’s protected areas including the northern sector of Queen Elizabeth National Park where the project is apparently focused. The project aims at identifying the cause and then derives sustainable means of solving the problem.
The encroachment can be viewed on the Kasese side, near Katwe Lake and along River Nyamugasani area. The taking over of Katwe Area by the cultivators fueled conflicts with the pastoralists as lost great grazing land thus causing them to encroach on the park and graze their animals illegally fuelling the conflict between them and wildlife. The wild animals would also require access to the salt lake of Katwe where in turn they damage crops as they are protected to move through the cultivated land. These cultivators at times do the poaching at the park edge leading loss of prey including the Kobs that are explored on Uganda tours. The move by the cultivators hailing from the slopes of Mount Rwenzori to occupy the park land on the outskirts of the municipality of Kasese arising from the destruction of the environment on the Rwenzori slopes which in turn resulted in to flooding and death has also been noticed though the law enforcers were able to reverse it. All these are signs of people encroaching on the park and affecting the wildlife.
Majorly, this is caused by increasing population and people are forced to explore into the park to get more land for their cultivation. The Uganda Carnivore Programme has aimed at supporting and empowering the local communities such that they can engage in sustainable activities that would deter them from terrorizing the wildlife and their habitat. For example in Kanyanja Village, a successful fish farming project has been set up which provides food for families and fish for sale thus earning revenue to the local people.
The initiative engages the local communities through research, conducting wildlife conflict meetings, working with Uganda Wildlife Authority to increase the say of the local people in the park management decision making, assisting local people to secure jobs in the park, creating access for the locals to the tourism markets and supporting the Friends of Queen initiative that is aimed at increasing Uganda safaris to Queen Elizabeth National Park which would also in turn increase the revenue given to the communities under the 20% scheme.
Additionally, the Initiative works with the local teachers to incorporate the environmental education in their curriculum and provisions like book funding along with computers are offered. The resource monitoring program that is community based where local people are given the opportunity to gather information on the attacks of wildlife, property damage and general data about the ecology and then participate in the reporting, analysis along with mitigation and prevention of future occurrences is a great engagement aspect that has brought the communities to harmony with the protected area.
It can be noted that between the year 2006 and the year 2012, a rough count of 36 lions have been lost to poison in the north sector of Queen Elizabeth National Park.

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