Uganda Conservation Foundation
Protecting wildlife from poachers in the Queen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda, has taken a new and very effective turn. For the first time the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) rangers are conducting their operations by boat, whether this is anti-poaching, providing a safety and rescue service for the local fishing communities or guiding tourists. The Uganda Conservation Foundation (UCF) are the instigators of this ambitious Waterways Project which are providing marine based patrols across the Queen Elizabeth, Murchison Falls and Lake Mburo National Parks in Uganda.
Uganda Conservation Foundation
The Uganda Conservation Foundation (UCF) evolved from a research project called Elephants, Crops and People undertaken by Michael Keigwin in the 1990s. During his period of research he saw the daily threats facing people and wildlife alike and recognized that simple yet effective solutions could come through the support of a secure and Uganda focused funding route. This led to the birth of the Uganda Conservation Foundation which works with various partners to support the recovery and future security of Uganda’s wildlife, natural resources and environment. One such partner is the Uganda Wildlife Authority who UCF work hand in hand with on the Waterways Project.
The Uganda Conservation Foundation, with funding from Tusk and other donors, has successfully built marine ranger stations at three key strategic locations across the Queen Elizabeth National Park (QENP). Each station is built from a reclaimed shipping container and equipped with a small aluminium boat, an outboard engine and life jackets. As part of the programme Poole Harbour Sea Survival Ltd very kindly came out to Uganda to train eighteen marine rangers as coxswains to Royal Yachting Association standard, and six to fully qualified trainer standard. So no longer are the rangers only accessing the park and patrolling from land, they are now have a very effective and well trained marine component.
Water Borne Game Guards
The impact of the project has been wide spread and impressive. Previously helpless to control poachers operating by boat the UWA is now able to fight back. Using the many inlets throughout the Park, teams of men have carried out coordinated commercial poaching incursions along the waterways, smoking bushmeat along the inaccessible papyrus lined shorelines as they worked, before shipping the meat out along the same rivers to meet with vehicles.
Chief Park Warden, Tom Okello, says “Our ranger operations, across an area of 2000km², are limited. To travel across the Kazinga Channel to patrol the other bank would usually entail driving 150km to drop off and pick up our rangers, in full view of the poachers! We now have boats to cross whenever and wherever we need our patrols. We are saving valuable funds through the use of the boats, not least because we are less-dependent upon our two vehicles and expensive fuel. We are really winning against the poachers.”
Illegal fishing practices (undersized nets, unlicensed boats, fishing in restricted breeding areas) have historically undermined the catches of the eleven fishing villages in the QENP, and have therefore seriously impacted on their economy. Hundreds of illegal fishing boats and nets have now been confiscated and this means that licensed fishermen are able to regain sustainable and economically viable catches. Removing the illegal nets from restricted areas has also had the impact of protecting breeding areas and young fish, as well as protecting the water birds, otters and crocodile that so frequently get tangled in fishing gear.
UCF and UWA are now focusing energy and support on recovering the 400km² corridor called Dura that connects QENP in the north to the Kibale Forest National Park. For decades the area has been overrun by poachers to the point that less than ten elephant remain and probably as many hippo. Investment into Dura will provide Uganda’s biggest potential to increase both wildlife numbers and biodiversity over the coming decade. Dura should be hosting large numbers of elephants, hippo, lion as well as chimpanzee, antelopes and potentially Africa’s largest pelican colony. This is a very ambitious and difficult project but the success of the Tusk sponsored Waterways Project has provided the catalyst to recover this important corridor.
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