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

Multimedia Social Media Documenting, Not Driving, Hong Kong Protests

Unlike in Arab Spring uprisings, pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong aren't relying on Twitter and Facebook to organize, but social media still plays a role More

Analysis: Occupy Central Not Exactly Hong Kong’s Tiananmen

VOA's former Hong Kong, Beijing correspondent compares and contrasts 1989 Tiananmen Square protest with what is now happening in Hong Kong More

Bambari Hospital a Lone Place of Help in Violence-Plagued CAR

Only establishment still functioning in CAR's second city is main hospital 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.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid