Relations between Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) game rangers and communities living near game parks often tend to be problematic. Reports of game rangers clashing with locals are still rife.
The Daily Monitor of February 11 reported that Nwoya District residents are accusing UWA game rangers of killing people found in Murchison Falls National Park instead of arresting and prosecuting them.
But UWA spokesperson Bashir Hangi said in circumstances where poachers are armed, he cannot rule out cases of killings by either side. He said some poachers often shoot at UWA rangers, forcing the latter to return fire.
If the communities’ claim that rangers shoot and kill suspected poachers and bury their remains in the park is true, then it is unfortunate. It is understandable that the rangers would want to fight back in self defence, especially when suspected poachers are armed and are firing at them. But this should only happen as a last resort.
Last year, the Daily Monitor of July 22, reported about the escalating conflicts between residents living near Mt Elgon National Park in Bukwo District and UWA officials. Residents warned park rangers against crossing from the park to their land without permission.
In the scuffle, a park ranger and a resident were killed and several other people were injured. It was reported that the deceased, a resident of Kaptolongi village in Cheboi Parish, was reportedly shot dead in what the locals called brutal killing by a ranger under unclear circumstances, residents retaliated and killed a senior game ranger at UWA station in Bukwo District.
Some even threatened to kill any animal found roaming in their gardens or homesteads.
These two incidences point to the numerous conflicts that exist between the two sides and unfortunately, they usually end up in bloodshed.
It is a dangerous situation, especially for UWA, given that game rangers are supposed to do their job of conserving nature. Poaching is a crime and many offenders face arrest and prosecution.
Therefore, there is need for UWA and communities living near national parks, to sit and chart a way forward towards harmonious relationship. Besides, there should be continuous sensitisation of the affected communities many of whom whose members still see poaching as a way of making a living.
Continuous efforts should be made to mend relations between game rangers and communities around national parks.