By Simon Musasizi
The recent passing out of 430 newly-recruited rangers has brought a sigh of relief to many. The rangers will monitor Uganda’s pristine parks and try to stop unrelenting poachers who continue to prowl from one area to another in pursuit of wild game.
But while the rangers were passed out – they are now more than 1300 – there are questions over the kind of impact they will have. At the passing-out ceremony, presided over by President Museveni at Paraa training school in Murchison falls national park, Conservation Area Manager Tom Obong Okello pointed out inadequate manpower as the biggest problem facing Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA).
“We have been having fewer rangers. The ranger-to-protected-area ratio has been low,” Okello told The Observer. “The ratio is about one ranger patrolling 30 square kilometres, which is practically impossible. With this number, the ratio will narrow, but still it will not be enough.”
For the last 40 years, severe poaching has killed many rhinos and elephants that gave the country the reputation of having the most mega herbivores per kilometre in Africa. According to Okello, in the last three years, poachers have killed over 20 elephants in Murchison Falls national park alone.
Media reports recently indicated that Queen Elizabeth national park had lost 10 elephants within six months. UWA Executive Director Andrew Seguya says poaching is now fuelled by an international criminal syndicate, mainly operating out of South East Asia, which bankrolls the wanton slaughter of wildlife, especially elephants. Some 50 rangers have been killed and hundreds injured in the course of their work, Seguya says. President Museveni ordered UWA to decisively deal with the poachers.
“These people [poachers] are terrible people. They are undermining our wealth; this is wealth of the whole country,” Museveni said.
“You need to develop a strategy on how to catch them, including electronic tracking to catch sophisticated poachers. Tusks, for example, are very heavy things; how do you carry them through all these borders? There must be some collusion.” More....