Uganda Elephant Populations on Increase
According to a recent survey, there is a consistent increase in the numbers of elephant populations in Uganda’s national parks reported by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA). The surveys were conducted by WCS and UWA with funding from Paul G. Allen and WCS, as part of the Great Elephant Census®. This report comes in a period where most elephant populations are declining across the rest of Africa.
Uganda’s protection efforts is bringing good news and hope that there is still a chance to save the elephant population across Africa. This is good news for the elephants, of course, and also good news for tourism in the Pearl of Africa hence growth a great boost to Uganda’s tourism industry that is largely based on wildlife. The elephant is one of most sought after animal in Africa and many tourists visit Africa to enjoy game viewing including the big five, which includes the grand elephants! Many tourists visiting Uganda enjoy wildlife safaris in national parks and elephants are among the animals that they look for while on safari.
The survey comes an encouragement for conservation efforts to see elephant numbers increasing in Uganda as a result of effective protection in different national parks, despite recent increased poaching and ivory trafficking across much of Africa.
According to an interview with the WCS Senior Conservationist Dr. Paul Elkan, the major reasons contributing to this increase is the strong Ugandan Government leadership, targeted investment in field based anti-poaching and anti-trafficking action, and transboundary elephant protection efforts, are the most important bases for sustaining efforts and addressing the poaching problems in Queen Elizabeth national park one of the Uganda’s national parks with high numbers of elephant population in uganda.
During the early 1970’s – 1980’s, Uganda had been facing decrease in her elephant numbers due to the rampant poaching and limited resources for the then Uganda National Parks. Elephants became confined to protected areas due to poaching pressures from human population looking at trading ivory hence a dropped as low as 700-800 elephants the country. Uganda was labeled by CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) in 2012 as one of the eight countries of primary concern in the ivory trade because of the volume of illegal ivory that had passed through Uganda.
With improved protection since the 1990s and the creation of UWA, together with support from Government, donors, and conservation partners, elephant numbers have now increased to over 5,000 individuals today.
In June 2014 the WCS and UWA staff conducted several aerial surveys where the current elephant numbers in the different national parks was established. Murchison Falls National Park – 1,330 elephants, 2,913 in Queen Elizabeth National Park and 656 in the Kidepo Valley National Park and neighboring Karenga Community Wildlife Management area. Elephant numbers in Queen Elizabeth Park have reached levels similar to those in the 1960s before heavy poaching hit the Park. For Murchison falls, the numbers are steadily increasing a former elephant stronghold, which means UWA’s protection efforts are yielding positive results for many wildlife species in Kidepo Valley and Karenga.
A number of recent elephant poaching incidents were recorded in Queen Elizabeth demonstrating the critical need for reinforcing anti-poaching and surveillance efforts in the Park both within Uganda and along its border with neighboring Virunga National Park in Democratic Republic of Congo. No recent elephant poaching incidents were observed in Murchison or Kidepo Park/Karenga during the survey, which is a notable improvement in security for those areas.
According to the survey, its was establish that, its very important to establish transboundary conservation programs with Kidepo Wildlife Reserve in South Sudan and adjacent areas in Kenya so as to conserve wildlife that keeps moving to and fro each country.
In conclusion, while it is encouraging that elephant numbers are increasing, poaching remains a big challenge in Uganda and there is a need to remain vigilant from the government and community surrounding national parks. Recently for example, illegally killed elephants were discovered in Queen Elizabeth Park which means, Uganda is still not completely secure from poaching.