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Uganda’s smooth road network fosters effective wildlife management

By Admin

Added 28th September 2018 01:07 PM

The good road network ensures the animals are not stressed therefore enjoy their ride from the monotony of Entebbe neighborhood.

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The good road network ensures the animals are not stressed therefore enjoy their ride from the monotony of Entebbe neighborhood.

OPINION

In August 2018, sections of the local mass media published screaming headlines of Uganda’s gentle giants, the Rothschild giraffes having travelled 350 km from Murchison Falls National park to Kidepo Valley Conservation Area in Karamoja sub-region by road.

To the starters, the story evoked feelings of possible stress for the towering wildlife and the human crew including the drivers, the veterinarians and law enforcement rangers enduring a grueling experience on rough -dusty roads with countless potholes, narrow bridges, and disruptive electric cables among other possible constraints.

Contrary to the possible assumptions, the giraffes aboard a  new Tata lorry donated by the Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF), appeared to have enjoyed a smooth ride from Tangi gate holding kraal(boma) close to Pakwach  town,  on a paved  road through  Purongo,Olwiyo junction, Koch Goma  with a stop- over in  Gulu  city before proceeding  to Kitgum  via  crossing the expanded Aswa bridge  and finally to Kaabong district  with their final destination in the panoramic  Kidepo Valley  National Park.

The smooth trips used to last less than 12 hours before the giraffes were released professionally to start life in a new environment, which is a testimony to the state of the road. The fully restored security situation following the successful disarmament of the Karamojong warriors and the defeat of LRA insurgency in Acholi sub region, further contributed to the undisrupted night trips for these valuable national assets.

Just five months before this adventurous exercise, the Uganda Wildlife Authority management in partnership with other conservation experts, had in May 2018, captured and trans located close to 100 Impalas from Lake Mburo National park in Kiruhura district, to Pian Upe wildlife Reserve (PUWR) also in Karamoja region, north eastern Uganda.

The impalas must have equally enjoyed a smooth ride, albeit far longer , traversing as many districts as possible through Masaka-Kampala-Busoga-Tirinyi-Mbale  up to the Karamoja plains,  in trans-night rides to avoid stressful heat and other  heavy traffic during the day.

It is said that Pian Upe which is Uganda’s second biggest protected area after Murchison Falls PA, has ever hosted impalas and this move was a re-introduction following a possible extinction of the initial population.

The Research and ecological studies indicate that the area favors the survival of these antelopes here and their introduction has not only boosted tourism activities but also safeguarded their future through diversification of their habitats, adequate fodder and recreation environment.

Still from Lake Mburo national  park  which borders Isingiro,Mbarara and Kiruhura districts ,there was another successful translocation of  several zebras and impalas  which were ferried through  various districts taking advantage of the improved road network ,to Katonga wildlife reserve  bordering Kyegegwa, Kamwenge and  Kiruhura,  to add to the wildlife diversity and also raise the profile of the protected area as a potential tourism destination.

It is no wonder that the neighboring district councils of the reserve have already made resolutions to have the reserve turned into a fully-fledged national park with a higher protection status, which would definitely enhance the visitation and revenues for government and the communities.

 Contrary to the  perceptions that  Lake Mburo National Park in south western Uganda had got a lion’s share  of wildlife translocation when  about 15 giraffes were moved from north western region  three years ago, Kidepo Valley National Park seems to have enjoyed a fairer share of the  translocation.

Before the giraffes ,about 100 Uganda kobs  were in May 2017,moved from Murchison Falls National Park  to Kidepo  following the reduction of the kobs population  in the north- eastern based national park  and also as a strategy to regulate the population of kobs in Murchison Falls park.

Given the deliberate balance between the females and male kobs taken to Kidepo as well as their short gestation periods and high  procreation rates ,reports indicate that the kobs population is fast increasing .

Besides boosting wildlife diversity and tourism prospects, the increasing kobs population is definitely good news for the carnivores in the same park .

Similar translocation exercises before this involved the transfer of 18 giraffes from the northern bank of Murchison Falls National Park in Nwoya district to the southern bank of the same park in Buliisa district in 2017 for the same management purposes conforming to the common adage that one should not put all your eggs in one basket.

Since the giraffes are not known to swim and therefore cannot cross the Nile back to the northern bank, the transferred giraffes are settled and forming their own territories.

In the same year, some giraffes were transferred to Uganda Wildlife Education Centre (UWEC) aka Entebbe Zoo and are equally doing well enjoying the Lake Victoria breeze and the sound of aero planes near the airport but more importantly contributing to wildlife education.

Another way through which the improved road network has boosted wildlife management is the transportation of what is commonly known as problem animals.

Uganda Wildlife Authority being charged with wildlife both in and outside protected areas, often gets calls and alerts about animals threatening life in the communities for instance the man-eating crocodiles in Mayuge, Namayingo and Masindi districts. Some are rock pythons in farms, stray hippos and some cats.

The problem animal Control Unit of the authority has traversed the country in  an effort not only to save the communities from potentially dangerous animals  but as well to rescue them from  possible retaliatory killing or harm in self-defence. 

Whenever they are trapped and captured, the unit also takes advantage of the improved road network to transport the said animals to safer places for instance the crocodiles to the Victoria Nile in Murchison Falls National Park.

Recently, the UWA problem animal control personnel captured  a close to one ton heavy  crocodile from Namayingo  district and utilized the Busia-Namayingo-Musiita road  through Jinja and Kampala to relocate the man eating crocodile to a safer destination.

Similar operations have been made for problem crocodiles from River Kafu in Masindi relocated to Murchison Falls water bodies with ease .

Other rescues facilitated by the good road network include the baby elephants from Hamukungu fishing village in Queen Elizabeth National Park to Entebbe zoo and a number of orphaned chimpanzees from various forests to the Ngamba sanctuary.

During various regional exhibitions and royal coronation ceremonies like Empango in Toro and Bunyoro, one of the popular highlights is the wildlife exhibitions by the UWEC which transports the delicate animals including lions and snakes to spice the functions and also teach the populace about their aesthetic and conservation values.

The good road network ensures the animals are not stressed therefore enjoy their ride from the monotony of Entebbe neighborhood.

In conclusion, while a lot of advocacy, agitation and attention seem to focus on tourism roads for ease of tourists/visitors’ confortable travel experience, the need to open up and maintain a good road network for easier wildlife management through translocation, relocation of problem animals, rescue of threatened wildlife and regular monitoring of wildlife health should never be a lesser priority.

I have always for instance, on several occasions met Dr. Fred Nzeyimana of the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project enduring some rough sections of the roads to Mgahinga and the southern sector of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park to monitor the health of the sensitive gorillas or rescue the injured ones.  

Whenever the chimpanzees in Muhororo and other surviving forests of Bunyoro become a threat to human life, the staff of Kibale National Park or Murchison Falls Conservation Area has to endure rough roads to offer solutions.

However, the works on the Kigumba-Masindi-Hoima to Kyenjojo road which have commenced will not only offer relief to the tourists, businessmen and other stake holders but the wildlife managers in equal measures.

With the planned massive road network improvement and maintenance of the existing infrastructure, wildlife management will no doubt get easier and better. It is not debatable that 90% of Uganda’s tourism is nature based and that the sector is a categorised key growth driver, whose proceeds will further boost the country’s economic independence.

The writer is the spokesperson of the Uganda Wild Life Authority

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