Good news for the chimps and other wildlife in Kibale National Park! The dark days of being poached may be coming to a definite end following a decision by a group of 52 people to voluntarily hand over to Uganda Wildlife Authority all the poaching tools they have been using to terrorise the helpless animals.
This happened at the Kibale National Park headquarters in Isunga, Kitswamba Subcounty, Kasese District on 11th November 2006 at a ceremony that was presided over by the Resident District Commissioner for Kabarole Mr. Charles Ndiwa Chemaswet. In total UWA received 81 hunting spears, 11 pangas, 2 bows, 4 arrows, 1 metal trap, 9 wire snares, 2 hunting nets, 1 firewood lighter and 4 catapults. These are some the tools which are always used for hunting wild animals.
Mr. Chemaswet encouraged the group to organise themselves into an association so that they can benefit from the ‘Bona Baggaggawale’ program, which government is implementing to alleviate poverty among poor Ugandans. (Bona Baggaggawale loosely means “Prosperity for all”)
He said that government is very committed to protecting the integrity of protected areas in Uganda, and urged them to discourage other community members from undertaking poaching activities. He thanked UWA for sharing part of the revenue generated from protected areas (under the Revenue Sharing Programme) with the neighbouring local communities to improve their livelihoods so that they stop looking at protected areas as wasted areas.
He also advised Uganda Wildlife Authority to implement wildlife conservation policies with a human face including dialogue and negotiations with neighbouring communities.
The Chief Warden for Kibale National Park (KNP) welcomed the former poachers into the conservation community and asked them to spread the conservation message among fellow community members.
Aggressive conservation education and awareness campaigns that are being implemented across the country have resulted in a wave of behavioural change, with many people voluntarily giving up poaching and teaming up with Uganda Wildlife Authority to undertake conservation activities.
They were also assured of the fact that there are several alternative ways of earning a living without killing wildlife.
In addition, poachers now have a rougher time carrying out their activities because of the increased vigilance by Uganda Wildlife Authority to fight illegal activities within the protected areas. They eventually realised that it is not beneficial to poach especially since many of them are still very poor and the risk too big.
Mr. Sunday Zepher who was the spokesman of the group that gave up poaching, said that they have engaged in commercial and subsistence poaching for over 30 years. He also observed that the majority of community members lead a peasant life and are very poor. They mostly carried out their poaching activities in Kibale National Park, Rwenzori Mountains National Park and Queen Elizabeth National Park.
The group has already formed themselves into an association called ‘Kisanga Anti-Poaching Group’ with the aim of working closely with Uganda Wildlife Authority to spread the conservation message and also engage in income generating activities for economic development.
The management of Kibale National Park will work closely with the group to identify some income generating activities that can be supported. The group has already formed themselves into a drama group and, with UWA support, will visit other communities neighbouring the national park to spread the conservation message.
Kibale National Park is a lush tropical rainforest with fascinating diversity of plants and animals. The forest is worth protecting as it is home to the largest number (in Uganda) primate species – 13 in all, including the chimpanzee, the Red Colobus monkey and the rare l’Hoesti monkey that made it a popular tourist destination. Some of the other wildlife species in the park include elephants, buffaloes, giant forest hogs, and other antelopes. Major tourist activities include but are not limited to chimpanzee tracking, the Chimpanzee Habituation Experience (commonly known as CHEX), natural walks, long distance and night forest walks as well as visits to community eco-tourism projects near Kanyanchu River Camp. We welcome everybody to visit and enjoy the cool and refreshing climate of Kibale National Park.