Kampala — It is a bit of a cliché, the saying that when two elephants fight the grass suffers. However, it has been turned on its head in protected areas of the country where the fight among the top brass in the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) has led to the death of elephants. Poachers are taking advantage of the on-going fight in UWA to kill animals in wildlife sanctuaries under the authority.
An official at Semiliki Wildlife Reserve in western Uganda told Daily Monitor yesterday that poachers had killed two elephants, one an adult aged 15 to 20 and another aged five, for their tusks.
The official, who did not want to be named because they do not work with UWA, said UPDF soldiers on patrol in the area, which is close to the border with DR Congo, had intercepted two suspected poachers with elephant tusks believed to have been cut off the dead elephant carcasses.
Lillian Nsubuga the UWA spokesperson said yesterday that she was yet to receive a report on the incident. “Poaching is one of the things we are fighting hard to stop,” she said. “We carry out patrols daily at different national parks and sometimes we encounter poachers but at times we don’t. “The parks are big and we do not have enough staff and in some communities hunting is part of their culture so they just can’t stop doing it,” Ms Nsubuga said. She added that the wildlife centre has tried to educate poachers and shown them that the animals can be more income generating through tourism than poaching.
UWA has been in the spotlight over the last couple of weeks after a new board of trustees forced out Executive Director Moses Mapesa and other senior managers on allegations of financial impropriety. The board has, however, come under scrutiny after it awarded itself massive pay raises and oversaw irregular appointments and promotions in the organisation. Questions have also been raised about the selection of board members after it emerged that the new chairman is a personal physician to Tourism Minister Gen. Kahinda Otafiire.
UWA, which is in charge of national parks, wildlife reserves and wildlife sanctuaries, is meant to conserve wildlife. While it is too early to tell whether there has been an increase in incidents of poaching, the continued fighting between the UWA top officials can only spell trouble for the animals in the wild.