WAKISO – The Uganda Wildlife Conservation Education Centre (UWEC), popularly known as Entebbe Zoo is celebrating the addition of two new lion cubs that were born on Christmas day.
The two cubs were born in the wee hours of Wednesday, December 25, 2019 to mom Mutagamba, 7, and Letaba, that unfortunately passed on in September this year.
“The birth of two lion cubs brings the total number of lions at UWEC to nine,” said Dr James Musinguzi, the Executive Director at UWEC.
Speaking to Africa Tembelea, Dr Musinguzi, said that, the criteria of naming the lion cubs will depend on the decision made after determining the sex of both.
“For now, we shall annex Emmanuel or Emmanuella,” he added.
According to Dr. Musinguzi, the yet to be named lion cubs will have about two months bonding time with mom (Mutagamba) and the rest of the pride before guests get a glimpse of them.
He also noted that UWEC was exploring the possibility of re introducing lions in the wild using IUCN re introduction guidelines that involve monitoring them after collaring. This he said, would support disposal and reduction of the lions at UWEC for sustainability.
However, Dr Musinguzi was quick to add that, “For introduction, UWEC is going to engage stakeholders especially UWA to discuss this intention as a way of growing wild lion population in Uganda.”
On her part, Alapo a curator at UWEC said, “The two cubs are healthy. The fact that Mutagamba successfully raised her previous litter of three; Zuri, Paradise, and Africa in 2017 and has a record of being a good mother, we are hopeful that they will thrive as we continue to monitor them.”
Eric Ntalo, the UWEC spokesperson, who also weighed in, noted that “These lions really help us tell the important story of what is happening in the wild,” …. “When people start to care, then their desire to learn and do more also increases,” he added.
– Mutagamba –
Born on 16th September, 2012, to the late Kibonge (father) and Bisa (mother, Mutagamba, now aged 13, was named after former Tourism, Wildlife & Antiquities Minister, the Late Hon. Maria Mutagamba in recognition of her support to tourism and conservation in Uganda.
– Lions –
African lions (Panthera leo) are the largest and most imposing carnivore in Africa. They are the only true social cats and have special cultural significance in most countries on the continent.
Most if not all tourists who visit Uganda, crave to see lions in the wild. Lions not only enjoy a reputation as “king of beasts” or “king of the jungle,” but are also popular symbols of royalty, strength and bravery.
Lions are mainly found in the three savannah parks of Uganda: Kidepo Valley National Park, Murchison Falls National Park and Queen Elizabeth National Park.
– Threats –
Globally, large carnivores are facing population declines as the ever growing human population reduces habitable landscapes in which they can live. A 2009 Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) national census of lions showed a decline from an estimated 600 a decade ago to about 400 today.
Murchison Falls National Park had the biggest decline from about 320 to 130 within a decade. This significant decline can largely be attributed to accidental snaring in traps set for antelopes and conflict with communities neighboring the park.
The lion population in the Ishasha sector of Queen Elizabeth National Park also declined with numbers in Ishasha reducung from 6 lions per 100 km2 to 4 lions per 100km2 in the last 10 years. The two main threats to lions in this park are snaring and conflict with pastoralists following predation of livestock or injury to humans.
This human-lion conflict often triggers the retaliatory poisoning of the cattle carcasses killed by the lions and death of any animal that then feeds on it.