Dear conservationists, the war of humans and wildlife is real

Saturday April 27 2019



Asuman Bisiika

Asuman Bisiika 

By Asuman Bisiika

Mr Joachim Buwembo, one of the scions of Ugandan journalism, wrote about a Ugandan Member of Parliament threatening to kill wild animals. Facebook published his story on Saturday, April 20, 2019 (at 12.09pm).
Mr Buwembo’s facebook post: ‘Buyamba MP Amos Mandela vows to launch war on wildlife if UWA doesn’t contain animals that destroy crops.’
Mr Amos Wekesa, a conservation enthusiast and tourism entrepreneur, was quick to chide the said MP. He wrote: ‘our MPs... No Kenyan MP would reason like that.’
Being a victim of wildlife and human conflict, I was quick to challenge the conservationists. But Mr Wekesa could not let me off the hook. He, rather condescendingly (even contemptuously), advised us to tell our “people should have a few children.

When they earn money, how do we explain to them about saving? How do they choose good leaders to utilise the 20 per cent given to them of entry fees? Every lodge around Queen Elizabeth National Park pays between Shs20,000 and Shs10,000 for every client, how do leaders use that money? But destroying nature shows, we aren’t thinking.” Sounds good, yes? No; because things are not as easy and straight forward as Mr Wekesa makes them sound. Mr Wekesa is a likeable person and I was constrained to unleash my anger and frustration on him. My response was courteous: ‘Amos Wekesa, you don’t understand these things’.

Thirteen kilometres apart and on the national tarmac grid, Kiburara (my home town) is the nearest easily accessible human settlement near Mr Wekesa’s two safari lodge facilities at Kikorongo. And dear reader, my small holding banana grove at Kiburara was destroyed by a herd of elephants on Wednesday, April 24, 2019 (just four days after Mr Buwembo’s facebook post).

Mr Charles Odoobo Bichachi works with Nation Media Group. He said: ‘I would love to share a boundary with a game sanctuary because the opportunities are immense. Of course, if one chooses to see problems, they will see lots of them. Right now, I am looking at the opportunities and have no problem exchanging five acres in Mukono with any of those UWA neighbours that see enormous problems with wild animals.’

Mr Bichachi continued: ‘I understand the plight of the poor (people) neighbouring game parks. However, they can turn their problems into opportunities if they engage the right sense of mind rather than simply thinking poison, arrows and sticks. And they don’t have to be rich, they only need to come together and their educated children (even a handful of them) should lead them to take advantage of their prime location rather than join the poison and narrow brigade.
‘They can get strategic investors and use their land as equity. They would earn so much more than what they get out of the few plants they cultivate, many of which are destroyed by wild animals. It is called thinking outside the box and I am sure UWA would be glad to support such community initiatives’.

Another victim of the human-wildlife conflict responded to Mr Bichachi bulunji: ‘You can as well find a strategic investment partner and turn your five acres in Mukono into an industrial facility’. The Wednesday elephant attack in Kiburara left two (a Ms Kabanda and Mr Kananga) hospitalised (thank the gods, no fatalities) and destruction of food crops whose loss are likely to cause a famine.
Dear city-dwelling conservationist enthusiasts with your hare–brained ideas, your lack of knowledge on the human-wildlife conflict is annoying. And framing us (victims) as unclever and unwashed is even more contemptuous than condescending. Mweddeko.
The war of humans and wildlife is real; made worse by and the ineptitude of UWA.

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Mr Bisiika is the executive editor of East African Flagpost. abisiika@gmail.com