Kampala, Uganda – The management of Queen Elizabeth National park has raised a red flag over the increased cases of poaching in the park since the nationwide lockdown was announced in March this year.
Although Uganda Wildlife Authority-UWA stepped up security and foot patrols in the park following the death of elephants, several poachers have been arrested since March.
Pontus Onzima, the Chief Warden Queen Elizabeth National park says they have registered more cases of poaching compared to the period before the lockdown. Over 60 poachers have been arrested between March and May compared to only 20 in February.
He suspects that several people have resorted to poaching for survival after losing their livelihoods because of the lockdown.
Onzima explains that most of the poachers target small wildlife species for food. He says the animal census scheduled in the next two years will guide the park authorities on the extent of the damage.
Onzima says despite the increased cases of poaching, the park is also witnessing a slight growth in the wildlife numbers.
Steven Nyaduru, the Assistant Warden of Tourism in Queen Elizabeth National park argues that the absence of tourists as well as guides in the field means that fewer people are available to monitor wildlife which increases their vulnerability.
He says the Covid-19 pandemic has had devastating effects on the industry including resources that should have been channeled to preserve wildlife.
Hanan Masereka, a resident of Muhokya in Muhokya sub county notes that most people have turned to wildlife for survival since they are constrained financially.
He says most people have been surviving on petty jobs across the lakes but business has since March gone down.