UWA builds dams for wild animals

Saturday February 1 2020

Philermon Tumwebaze, the assistant warden in

Philermon Tumwebaze, the assistant warden in charge of ecological monitoring and research at Tooro Semliki Game Reserve shows one of the newly constructed dams. PHOTOS BY FELIX BASIIME 

By Felix Basiime

In a bid to boost tourism and prevent wild animals from dying during drought, Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) has embarked on an initiative of digging up dams that will serve animals in all savannah national parks across the country.

The savannah parks located in the cattle corridor include Tooro Semliki game reserve in Ntoroko District, Lake Mburo in Kiruhuura and Kidepo Valley in Karamoja.

Reducing death of wildlife
According to Mr Philemon Tumwebaze, the assistant warden in charge of ecological monitoring and research at Tooro Semliki, wild animals are affected by the same drought conditions as domestic animals in the cattle corridor.

“As a way to guard against losing our animals, management thought it wise to dig dams so that during the wet season they will be filled with water to sustain animals in the dry season. Previously they have been moving long distance in search for water. Many animals would walk many kilometres to River Wassa” says Tumwebaze.

Dam project to be rolled out
He adds: “Initially, we constructed three dams in strategic areas of animal concentration, where tourists can easily view them, especially the Uganda Kobs, buffalos and elephants. We intend to roll out this dam project to across the country.”

“When the President visited Ntoroko District recently, he appealed to Ntoroko District administration to dig up dams for cattle keepers and neighbouring communities so that they leave water for wildlife in the park” says Tumwebaze, adding, “And as UWA, we are optimistic that dams will minimise the rate of deaths in Mburo, Kidepo and Tooro Semliki parks,” he adds.

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He noted that each dam measures 20 by 80 metres wide and three to four metres deep and is worth Shs20 million. “If it is filled with water, it can sustain wildlife through the dry seasons.”

Grazing in the park
As some national parks in the cattle corridors face rampant cases of cattle keepers illegally grazing their cattle in the park, in search of pasture and water, they compete for scarce resources meant for wildlife and chances of exchanging diseases are high.
All protected areas are a reserve of wildlife (fauna and flora) and no domestic animal should be grazed in the gazette area, according to UWA Act 2000.

“When the drought hits hard, the cattle keeping communities around the parks herd their cattle around the parks, an activity that dries up water sources meant for wildlife. This is why we want to construct dams specifically meant for wildlife in these parks. Government is also setting up dams for cattle in Ntoroko District,” said Tumwebaze.

Supporting communities
UWA has decided to support the cattle keepers too through a water project. “UWA is supporting the neighbouring communities around the park with a gravity water project, which is being tapped from River Wassa to Ntoroko, Kanara and Rwebisengo areas” he says.

In March last year, court in Ntoroko District sentenced four cattle keepers to jail for illegally grazing more than 600 cows in Tooro Semliki Wildlife Reserve. Mr Deusdedit Twinomugisha, the assistant warden of Community Conservation at Tooro-Semliki Wildlife Reserve, says the cattle keepers have killed all the lions in the reserve because they eat their cattle.

“Lions are one of the most sought after tourist attractions in the park. Tourists pay a lot of money to come and see wild animals, birds and nature. They do not expect to see domestic animals in the park,” he cautioned, adding that “the reserve receives between 500 to 700 tourists each year.”

500 herds of cattle dead
Cattle keepers in Ntoroko District have lost more than 500 herds of cattle following the drought from January June last year. Pastoralists and residents trek between six kilometres and 10kms daily searching for water from rivers Semliki, Wasa (inside Tooro Semliki Wildlife Reserve), Muzizi and Makondo.

President Yoweri Museveni in September last year noted that government would construct dams to accommodate excess waters that flow freely in Bundibugyo and Ntoroko districts to deal with the floods within the region. “We shall solve the flood problem by setting up more valley dams downstream in Ntoroko District to tap the excess water” Museveni said.

About the park
Tooro Semliki Wildlife Reserve covers part of Ntoroko, Bundibugyo and Kabarole districts and also borders with Lake Albert.

Uganda kobs dominant
As early as 1913, Tooro Semliki Wildlife Reserve became popular for tsetse fly control programme and as a lion hunting area for the King of Tooro.

It was established as a game reserve in 1926, under General Notice 546 aiming at the protection of the large population of wild animals, of which Uganda kobs were dominant. Other animals were reedbucks, waterbucks, hartebeests, lions, buffaloes, elephants, hippos and others.

The reserve covers an area of 542sq, km. It is located in western Uganda and is neighboured by 12 sub- counties.

Harbours endangered species
It is a habitat to a number of endangered species including the chimps in the central savanna and the river line forest of Mugiri, Wasa, and Nyaburogo rivers. The chimps here exhibit unique features such as digging drinking holes.

Challenges
However, the game reserve faces challenges that include poaching, illegal grazing, poor road network to the reserve, negative attitude by the community towards conservation, illegal trafficking of wildlife resources and a high demand of resources from the reserve such as poles, firewood, water and grass.
Plans are underway to elevate the game reserve into a national park and one of its key brand is the shoe bill, widely revered by birders.

QUICK FACTS
Tooro Semliki Wildlife Reserve covers Ntoroko, Bundibugyo and Kabarole districts and also borders Lake Albert. The reserve covers an area of 542sqkm. Located in western Uganda, it is a habitat to a number of endangered species including the chimps, Uganda kobs reedbucks, waterbucks, hartebeests, lions, buffaloes, elephants and hippos. As early as 1913, the game reserve was known as a lion hunting area for the King of Tooro.

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