Uganda's most endangered animals: Why they face extinction

What you need to know:

Last week, we celebrated Wildlife Day, a day meant to highlight wild flora and fauna. Today, we bring you some animals of the wild which are facing extinction

The world in general has thousands of species in the form of flora and fauna. It is easy to take them for granted. Trends show that some of them are not here to stay if extra is not taken. They are considered as endangered species.

Ugandan is home to some of these endangered species. Here’s a little of each and why they are endangered.

AFRICAN ELEPHANTS
These huge mammals can be found in most of the national parks in Uganda, both savannah and forest areas. The reason they are considered endangered is a no brainer, the 10 tonne animals are killed for their prized tusk. Despite efforts to combat poaching, ivory still fetches a good price on the black market.

At one time elephants roamed about three quarters of the continent in their numbers, by 1999 there were an estimated 400,000- 50000 African elephants remaining. But at a rate of 25,000 killed per year as was the case continent wide in 2011, a worrying portion of that number is not likely to exist anymore. Data from UWA shows Uganda was estimated to have 30,000 elephants in the 1960’s. The numbers stands at 5346 as of 2014.

Photo by Edgar R Batte

Although the drop in numbers over the last five decades is quite steep, it is also an improvement from the situation in the eighties which Aggrey Rwetsiba Monitoring and Research Coordinator Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) says was dire.

Then, Uganda was looking at elephants becoming almost extinct. “If you look at Uganda’s elephant population, you will notice it has slowly but steadily growing since the 1990’s,” he says.

For instance Queen Elizabeth National park had a little over 200 elephants in 1990, but the number has gone to over 1330 as of May last year. The reason for this is that conservation efforts are paying off.

What about the ivory trade in which Ugandan is named as a hot spot? Rwetsiba says it has been indicated that Uganda is mainly a transit point for ivory from surrounding nations including South Sudan CAR and the DRC.

Not to say they are not being poached because poaching is still the biggest threat to this big animal. Recovery is also slow as the mammals have a long maturity and gestation period, making them more vulnerable to extinction.

We also lose elephants to human animal interactions where the huge herbivores get killed as they leave protected areas to go eat crops in gardens bordering or close to the parks. Sometimes they get killed this way.

Facts about elephants
They love pineapples and will charge through a house if they smell one inside. The also seem to be attracted by the smell of local brew like Kwete.

They are terrified of trenches, bees and this has been used as a deterrent to keep them within the parks.

AFRICAN WILD DOG


This carnivore has one of the fastest shrinking populations of most of the animals labeled endangered. According to Rwetsiba, sightings of the carnivore in Uganda are rare.

The UWA Action plan for large carnivores 2010 gives a brief history of the wild dog populations in Uganda, saying the wild dog had been last spotted in 2009 around Kidepo National Park. They are thought to be roaming the savannas in surrounding countries, like South Sudan, Ethiopia and Kenya.

Rwetsiba said the dogs are casualties of human animal collision and are killed a lot by people who see them as a threat to their animals. In pre-independence Uganda, the carnivores were killed to control their numbers as they were seen as bloodthirsty predators. Their young are also preyed on by other carnivores. They are one of the most rarely seen animals in Uganda.

Fact about wild dogs
They are known to cover large distances, as far as 900kms so can move from country to country.

MOUNTAIN
GORILLAS

Photo by Edgar Batte


These ones are only a handful in the world. Uganda is estimated to have about 400 of the 700 that still exist world over resident in the protected forest reserves. Their small numbers means they can become extinct very fast.

Gorilla fact
Despite moving in groups, each gorilla has their own nest to sleep in. It is only those below three years that share their mothers nests.

LEOPARDS
The large cats are widely distributed in Uganda and can be found in Semlinki, Queen Elizabeth, Kidepo Valley, Mount Elgon and Murchison Falls national parks. But they are thin on the ground. For example, only two are thought to have been sported in Semlinki according to the Carnivore Action plan.

We are losing them to habitat loss as human activity and settlement moves farther into the places they called home.

Rwetsiba says they are killed when they come into contact with human beings who perceive them as a threat and predator on their livestock.

These killings happen with frequency as leopards are known to wander far from the protected areas and also since their habitat are close to the cattle corridor.

Fact about Leopards
Leopards are extremely hard to trace in the wild. They are one of the most elusive animals in the wild.

CHIMPANZEES
In the wild, Chimpanzees can be seen in Budongo forest and Semlinki Forest reserve, and Kibale National Park. They are estimated to be less than 200,000 of them remaining in the whole of Africa. They are coveted for their value as pets in the animal trafficking market all over the world. Uganda has around 4000 chimpanzees.

Chimpanzee fact
They are thought to have a better short term memory than humans!

LIONS
The king of the jungle is also one of the critically endangered species in the world. There are estimated to be about 144 lions in the whole expanse of Queen Elizabeth National Park after a count in 2008.They are threatened by killings by local community, road accidents, habitat loss and disease.

According to the report, Lake Mburo for instance lost its entire lion population in around the year 2000 due to poisonings by locals. A few are just returning, migrating from other parks in neighboring countries.

CASE OF THE RHINO


The rhino populations all over Africa were depleted to a mere handful. Rhino are were and are still killed for their horn which is believed to have medicinal property and has large markets in Asia. Others fell to random killings by hunters. A good number were also hunted down in the early days as early visitors to the continent shot many for food.

In Uganda’s Rhinos were extinct in the 80’s.Data from UWA shows for instance that there were 300 Northern White Rhino in 1960 but that number fell to only 20 in the 1980s and then to zero.
The eastern black rhino were 400 in 1960 also but dropped to 150 before disappearing entirely.
Uganda, however, has rhinoceros now thanks to a project to return the rhino. Today Uganda has 17 Southern White Rhinos but not in the wild. You can see them at Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary.

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