By Gerald Tenywa and Clare Muhindo
Makerere University estates department is cutting down trees that marabou storks commonly known as karoli also call home, setting a stage for conflict with wildlife conservationists.
While university authorities say they were cutting down trees that have out-lived their usefulness and they are posing danger to the buildings, conservationists fear that the move has endangered marabou stocks. The marabous eat solid waste and they are also referred to as dirty birds.
“We are cutting down trees that are more dangerous than useful,” said Barnabas Namangwe, the deputy vice Chancellor in charge of Finance and Administration at Makerere University. “The tree species are also being replaced with similar species.”
The conservationists led by Nature Uganda, a partner of BirdLife International say the motive behind the indiscriminate cutting down of trees at Makerere University is to chase marabou storks. They say they have had meetings with the estates department of the University in which the managers overseeing the tree cutting operations said they are chasing marabou storks.
“The massive tree cutting of trees is meant to chase marabous,” said Michael Opige, the programme manager, adding, “they even assured us that they were going to poison the birds incase tree cutting fails to chase the marabous.”
Opage wondered how Makerere University, which should be promoting conservation ethics, is cutting down the trees. “If they want to chase marabous they should clean up,” he said, adding the marabous keep going to Makerere because of the unclaimed solid waste. “The marabous will perch and breed on the tall buildings if the trees are no longer available for breeding.
In a separate interview, Mathias Mulumba, the head for Centre for Participatory Research and Development, a non-Government Organisation said Makerere is one of the few remaining places covered with indigenous trees in Kampala.
“Makerere should lead by example by preserving nature within the university premises,” said Mulumba, adding that the estates managers blame the marabous for causing blackouts when they land on power lines, which electrocute them. “The solution lies in pruning trees not to cut them down.”
The New Vision conducted an on ground assessment and encountered a few old trees among the felled trees but most of the rest were still in their prime raising questions why they were cut down.
“We have a few cases where there is indiscipline,” said Mawungwe. “There are cases where the people cutting down trees do not follow instructions and go beyond the limit.”
He added, “An audit is going on and we have an environment officer in the estates department who conducts the assessment before the trees are cut down.”
In Kampala, the breeding population has increased from 11 pairs in 1969 to over 500 pairs breeding population 2007, according to Achilles Byaruhanga, the head of Nature Uganda. Makerere University is one of the main breeding grounds for marabou storks.
Two decades ago, Kampala City Council (KCC), which was recently renamed Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) was also engaged in massive tree cutting and poisoning of marabou storks. After pressure from animal rights groups, KCC dropped the idea and KCCA is making headway in cleaning up the City.
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