Last month, six lions were atrociously killed at the Queen Elizabeth National Park in Kanungu District, southwestern Uganda. After a Shs10 million bounty was put out by Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) for anybody with the information leading to the arrest, four suspects were arrested. The people behind the act were arrested during a joint operation mounted by UWA, UPDF, and Police in Kihihi Sub County, Kanungu District.
According to a story in the Daily Monitor of March 24 titled, ‘Killers of lions wanted body parts for sale – officials’, Mr Gad Rugaaju Ahimbisibwe, the Kanungu deputy Resident District Commissioner said the lions were targeted for their parts which would later be sold.
“After being arrested, the suspects admitted to slaughtering the lions for their teeth and claws, which to them is a big trade. They told us that they did it for business. A lion’s head is sold at Shs40,000, while its fat is sold at Shs60, 000, nails and heart also sold at a yet-to-be-known price. Basically, they were killed for both commercial purposes and traditional medicine,” he revealed.
While I sincerely applaud the security agencies for hunting down and apprehending those responsible for this wicked act, the pain of such loss is still heavy. Yes, the criminals have been apprehended, but the lions are gone and their lives can never be restored.
Needless to say, these will not be the last lions or wildlife targeted by poachers looking to make a paltry Shs40, 000. Which brings us to the question; are we fully armed to protect our precious wildlife at all times or are we waiting to be jolted by more killings? Right now, we might be rife with anger, unfortunately, with time, we quickly forget until it happens again. How prepared are we for the next strike?
In the story, Mr Bashir Hangi, the communications manager at UWA is quoted as saying, “We have stealth cameras already but we need more in all parks. It is a big project that requires a lot of money over a period of time. We have ventured into the use of drones to monitor parks but they are still few.”
While buying and installing the security equipment that Mr Hangi mentions maybe expensive, it can’t be expensive as the permanent loss of wildlife that is a source of income for the country through tourism.
The authority must, therefore, be given the necessary support by the powers that be and all stakeholders to acquire, install and maintain whatever is needed to keep our wildlife safe.