Uganda Wildlife Authority acting Executive Director, Dr. Andrew Ggunga Seguya has assured the Honorary Wildlife Officers that the organization is stable and devising strategies of increasing the numbers of domestic visitors to Uganda’s national parks and wildlife reserves.
Dr. Seguya told the meeting of Honorary Wildlife Officers (HWO) at Athina Club House in Kampala on Thursday that there is need to interest Ugandans in appreciating their own natural attractions instead of rushing to the Western countries. He quoted statistics indicating that last year,980,000 visited Uganda but of those only 60,000 went to the Ugandan national parks which cover 10 % of the country’s land mass, which is not a rosy situation compared to our neighbouring countries .
Dr. Seguya told the eminent citizens with keen interest in conservation that poaching and encroachment on the protected areas was still a big challenge citing an example of Kidepo Valley National park where over 30,000 heads of cattle were grazing illegally. He also called on the HWOs to continue lobbying to ensure the preservation of the Mountain Elgon ecosystem if its surrounding communities are to continue benefitting from the benefits of conservation including water sources.
On the problem animals straying into community land, Dr. Seguya said the elephants that migrate between Uganda and Southern Sudan through areas of Amuru and Bibia use community land as corridors and in the process destroy people’s plantations. He however assured the HWOs that UWA rangers had been deployed to keep chasing them back to the protected areas. He said some schools of thought have proposed fencing off the parks which he said was not good since such migrations promote genetic variety thereby replenishing the genetic pool.
The acting ED also observed that due to changing vegetation in Lake Mburo National park from grassland to bushy acacia, several grassland animals had left the park for the neighbouring ranchers’ farms where they compete with livestock for pastures, water and salt .He mentioned zebras, buffalos and impalas as the commonest migrants, but added that UWA has a community conservation unit dealing with the problem, albeit with challenges. He said driving them back to the park or using other means to relocate them requires colossal sums of money.
Professor John Kasenene advised that in the short run, ranchers can be helped to do wildlife ranching with spelt out benefits while ion the long run a research needs to be done on the dynamics of acacia control and other invasive weeds.
Ms Joan Else a member of the interim executive for the HWO council and a travel agent observed that private wildlife management is a normal practice in other countries like Kenya and South Africa and can be encouraged.
The interim chairman of the HWO and former ED,UWA,Dr. Arthur Mugisha said the honorary wildlife officers had keen interest in the welfare of Wildlife and conservation and would be happy to contribute to the ongoing review of the Wildlife policy of 1999 and guide in the new changes to the Wildlife act.
Dr. Sam Nahamya a former Permanent Secretary urged the policy makers to involve the youth at an early stage in schools by interesting them in the importance of conservation .He also said other agencies like the National Forestry Authority should be brought on board in preserving the forests which are major catchment areas.
The HWOs who boast of President Yoweri Museveni as one of their key members will convene again soon to debate and adopt their constitution .