News / Africa

Uganda’s Lion Population Devastated by Bush Meat Hunters

Tom Okello in the shed where the Uganda Wildlife Authority keeps snares it has found, Nov. 2, 2013. (VOA/Hilary Heuler)Tom Okello in the shed where the Uganda Wildlife Authority keeps snares it has found, Nov. 2, 2013. (VOA/Hilary Heuler)
x
Tom Okello in the shed where the Uganda Wildlife Authority keeps snares it has found, Nov. 2, 2013. (VOA/Hilary Heuler)
Tom Okello in the shed where the Uganda Wildlife Authority keeps snares it has found, Nov. 2, 2013. (VOA/Hilary Heuler)
A recent report found that Uganda's lion population is down by 30 percent in the past decade.  But in the country's Murchison Falls National Park, the figure is closer to 60 percent, mainly because of snares meant to catch bush meat.
 
On a blistering hot day in Uganda’s Murchison Falls National Park, and Tom Okello, the park’s area manager, rummaged through a shed filled with wires.
 
“This is a store for recovered poaching implements and equipment,” he said.  “So with us here we have the snares.  We have wires which are got from electric lines, we have wires which are got from telephone lines, then we have wires which are even got from tires.  These snares I would estimate to be about three tons, and these are recoveries in the last five months.”
 
A snare, Okello explained, is a wire loop tied to a tree or heavy log.  Passing animals catch their necks or legs in the loops and are trapped.  Snares are set for bush meat, which is illegal, he said.  But the big problem with snares is that they catch more than just bush meat.
 
“These snares are targeting the antelopes, they are targeting the big herbivores like the hippos,  like the buffalos, then eventually the lions, because it is also using the same area for hunting,” Okello said.  “So where there are snares is where we have the highest concentration of these antelopes, and incidentally we also have the highest concentration of lions.  Lions normally get caught in snares which are not targeting them.”
 
When a lion is caught, it is not pretty.
 
“If you get when the snare has just got it, probably the state would not be as bad as when you get when it has stayed with this snare for two, three, four days,” said Julius Obwona, a law enforcement warden who leads sweeps of the park looking for snares.    “You will find when it is actually in serious pain.  There are cases when you find animals that have been amputated by the snares.  Sometimes you find them dead.”
 
It has been decades since lions like this one were actively hunted in Uganda, but now their numbers are being devastated by snares meant for antelope, Nov. 8, 2013. (Hilary Heuler for VOA News)It has been decades since lions like this one were actively hunted in Uganda, but now their numbers are being devastated by snares meant for antelope, Nov. 8, 2013. (Hilary Heuler for VOA News)
x
It has been decades since lions like this one were actively hunted in Uganda, but now their numbers are being devastated by snares meant for antelope, Nov. 8, 2013. (Hilary Heuler for VOA News)
It has been decades since lions like this one were actively hunted in Uganda, but now their numbers are being devastated by snares meant for antelope, Nov. 8, 2013. (Hilary Heuler for VOA News)
According to a report released in October by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), snares in Murchison are catching a lot of lions.  The report found the lion population in the park declined 60 percent during the past decade, down to 130 animals, mostly due to snares.
 
WCS carnivore researcher Tutilo Mudumba said losing lions could have a disastrous effect on the park’s ecosystem, and on conservation efforts in Uganda.
 
 
“It would have cascading effects on the conservation of other species which rely on money being brought in,” he said.  “But also, if you remove the top predators, then you have populations of the grazers going beyond the carrying capacity of the ecosystem of the savannah.”
 
 
The good news is that is has been decades since lions were actively hunted in Uganda.  People today are looking for bush meat, Mudumba said, so the solution could be to find other ways for them to feed their families.
 
“We are following up with those people who are involved in the poaching and suggesting that they be given alternative livelihoods, because they admit that they do it predominantly for protein, not for sale” Mudumba.
 
The Uganda Wildlife Authority has been working to catch poachers bringing snares into the park, and it appears to be working.  Obwona has conducted snare sweeps for years, and the number of snares they are netting has fallen dramatically.
 
“We would send a patrol, the patrol would come back with over 200 snares in a day.  But now when we send a patrol you get like 10, 14 [or] 20,” said Obwona.  “Sometimes a patrol comes back with one snare.  So I must say the rate is now coming down.”
 
But Okello said hunting is a longstanding tradition in these parts, and traditions are slow to change.  Many people in Uganda love bush meat, he says.  The lions, unfortunately, are just collateral damage.

You May Like

Reports of Mass Murder on Mediterranean Smuggler’s Boat

Boat sailed from Libya with 750 migrants aboard and arrived in Italy with 569 More

Video New Thailand Hotline Targets Misbehaving Monks

Officials say move aims to restore country’s image of Buddhism, tarnished by recent high profile scandals such as opulent lifestyle, drug and alcohol abuse, as well as child sex abuse More

Study: Dust from Sahara Helped Form Bahama Islands

What does the Sahara have in common with a Caribbean island? Quite a lot, researchers say More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Moses arineitwe from: uganda
November 12, 2013 10:07 AM
need more awareness to the local communities to know how they are loosing by killing their own wealth .


by: Lusi from: Lowell, MA
November 08, 2013 6:44 PM
There's DNA on the snares that can be used to identify the poachers. Find them and hang them with their own snares.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train in Underwater Labi
X
George Putic
July 25, 2014 7:25 PM
In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid