GULU. Zoka Forest faces extinction if the ongoing plunder of the forest resource is not checked.
Madi cultural cheif Stephen Lopirigo Izakare Drani has warned that the unregulated cutting of trees by unscrupulous timber dealers has destroyed nearly half of the forest’s natural cover.
“More than 50 or 60 per cent of it (Zoka Forest) has been plundered. This is the only natural forest we have in the region to support our echo system right now,” Mr Drani said.
He added that human behaviour of destroying the forest are ‘grossly irresponsible, very selfish and uncultured’.
Zoka is the only natural forest found along the swath of the Albertine region.
“Do not forget that this is the only forest we have in the Albertine region. This area is home to 75 per cent of the world’s insects and birds’ species. I ask people of northern Uganda, not just Madi sub-region, to rise up to protect the forest and all the forests around them and all other places,” said Mr Drani.
Zoka Forest that covers 1,259 hectares (13km square) lies in the southern part of Adjumani, Itirikwa and Ukusijoni sub-counties.
Much of the area is situated in East Madi Wildlife Reserve and part of it in Amuru District.
In October, the UPDF instituted a Commission of Inquiry into the plunder of timber in Zoka Forest after some of its officers were cited in the indiscriminate tree cutting.
Commenting on the cultural leaders’ observations, Maj Caesar Otim Olweny, the 4th Division army public relations officer told journalists that a team has been set up to investigate the matter adding that the army doesn’t condone such activity.
“We will require input from members of the community, leaders in Amuru and Adjumani districts so that we can come out with clear reports about the people who are destroying trees at Zoka forest,” Maj Olweny said.
In August, Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda named a team of four ministers to investigate the alleged plunder of the Zoka Forest in Adjumani District by a group of top district security leaders. District leaders from Amuru and Adjumani districts, where Zoka Forest is situated, allege that men wearing army uniforms believed to be of the government forces have on several occasions been seen extracting timber from the natural forest.