UWA calls for removal of human settlers in Queen Elizabeth Park to ensure smooth conservation and steady development of Tourism.
The only long-term solution to the ongoing conflict between humans and animals in the region, according to Uganda animals Authority (UWA), is the gradual eradication of 11 human settlements inside Queen Elizabeth National Park. The existence of these communities has been a serious problem, leading to the death of people, destruction of property, and animal retaliation kills.
UWA calls for removal of human settlers in Queen Elizabeth Park
The coexistence of human settlements and wildlife within the park has grown increasingly unsustainable, leading UWA officials to suggest the eviction of these villages, despite the area being designated a Man and Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO.
With a total size of 1,978 sq. km., Queen Elizabeth National Park includes 11 enclaves, including fishing communities like Katwe, Hamukungu, Kazinga, Kasenyi I and II, Kashaka, Kayanja, Kahendero, Rweshama, and Katunguru.
The population in these areas has increased over time to an estimated 60,000 people, intensifying struggle for resources between people and wildlife. To lessen the conflict, a number of strategies have been used, such as electric fences, revenue-sharing plans, and beekeeping projects.
But according to UWA, moving these communities permanently is still the best course of action. The difficulties caused by habitations inside the park were discussed by Bashir Hangi, the UWA’s manager of communication.
He pointed out that the intimate relationship between humans and wildlife not only undermines conservation efforts but also gives poachers the opportunity to pass for locals, further endangering the park’s species.
Hangi emphasised the inevitable nature of recurrent conflicts due to the expanding populations and resource needs on both sides, while admitting the efficacy of current measures.
He emphasised the necessity of relocating these settlements, saying that to fence the entire park would be inefficient and risk its ecological integrity.
“In some areas, humans raise domestic animals and harvest maize for their livelihood, which also draws wildlife for prey. The fencing is intended for the most troublesome regions; we cannot completely enclose the park and transform it into a zoo. But given everything, removing these individuals from the park would be the best course of action, he said.
Steven Nyadru, the Queen Elizabeth National Park’s assistant tourism warden, echoed these thoughts and pointed out how fishing settlements had grown beyond their original intent, intruding on the park’s primary goals.
“The goal was simply to fish and remove fish from the park, but at this point, from fishing villages, we have parishes, some of which have grown into sub-counties, while others have turned into town councils. The communities retaliate because of the rising population and the cows that are being brought in to graze, which turn into prey for the predator in the park, he continued.
The head of the Rutooke cell, Andrew Mateera, criticised the concept of displacing the community and cited a long history of cohabitation between locals and wildlife. He emphasised the benefit of current initiatives like revenue-sharing programmes and electric fences, which have strengthened ties and decreased conflict.
And the income collecting and sharing has raised our standard of living, which has led to a gradual decline in poaching. With this, I don’t see why anyone would consider leaving this location, where our great-grandparents are interred, he said.
Chris Kaseke, a former poacher who now serves as the president of the Lake Katwe United Bee Keepers’ Association, attested to the transforming potential of programmes like beekeeping, which have given locals other means of subsistence and encouraged conservation efforts.
“I was a poacher from the time I was born and raised, but beekeeping has helped me change, give me a living, and I’m not alone; many young people are also changing their ways. For instance, we initially had 15 members in 2015, but the association currently has up to 120 members, He said.