Wildlife Conservation society (WCS) in partnership with other agencies organised a well-attended public lecture about the state of big cats in Uganda at imperial royale hotel in Kampala, Uganda on Monday, 26th February 2018.
The three-hour event kicked off at 2pm with Dr. Simon Nampindo, the country director, WCS Uganda Country Program as the presenter of the lecture detailed various types of big cats found in Uganda, speaking to the population of lions, cheetahs and leopards, their current geographical range, threats, conservation actions and opportunities in Africa, and Uganda in particular. Discussants included: Dr. Siefert Ludwig, a wildlife veterinarian and Team Leader of the Uganda Carnivore Program (UCP), Dr. Margaret Driciru, a senior Warden Monitoring and Research, and wildlife veterinarian at Uganda Wildlife Authority and James Musinguzi, Executive Director, Uganda Wildlife Education Center.
The public lecture run under the theme, ‘the state of big cats in Uganda: challenges, opportunities and future plans,’ which was in line with the global theme, “Big cats: predators under threat".
The presenter highlighted the importance of big cats in any functioning ecosystem, the varied species found in Africa and the threats which are leading to the fast declining numbers over the last decade.
The lecture also featured the trends of the declining lion population at WCS sites, in central, east and west Africa as well as southern Africa. Simon also emphasized the need for improved data collection using more recent methods to survey big cats in order to accurately estimate their populations and highlighted the existing lion conservation plans in the four regions of Africa.
Regarding Uganda’s experience, deliberations featured WCS’ work on lion conservation in Queen Elizabeth National Park where it has been working since 2006 and Murchison Falls National Park where lion monitoring and research started in 2008, work that resulted in the development of the first carnivore conservation action plan for Uganda. The action plan provides detailed assessment of where conservation action should be targeted and the major threats to big cats’ conservation that Simon shared with the audience.
The main threat mentioned was the human-wildlife conflict where big cats are poisoned in retaliation to livestock loss and sometimes injury to people and death, but no direct compensation is paid to the affected communities or individuals. Simon shared practical experiences and evidence where non cash compensatory efforts such as security solar lighting at night, pasture management on private land, provision of water sources outside the park coupled with carnivore conservation education are said to be remedying this challenge.
The public lecture was part of activities organised to culminate into the national world wildlife day celebrations set for 3rd March 2018 at Nyakasanga grounds in Kasese District. The town is an enclave of four national parks: Kibale, Rwenzori Mountains NP, Queen Elizabeth National Park and Virunga National Park in DR Congo.
WCS partnered with the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, ECOTRUST, Uganda wildlife Authority (UWC), Uganda Tourism Board (UTB), Wildlife Clubs of Uganda (WCU), Uganda Wildlife Education Centre (UWEC), World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the Jane Goodall Institute.
Other activities organised by other agencies included a marathon organised by Uganda Wildlife Authority on 25th February 2018, a tourism exhibition, a school quiz and a tree planning exercise in kasese on 2nd March 2018.
In Uganda, big cats are a major source of revenue and have cultural value as a symbol power and identity. Lions are the second most sought after species after Mountain Gorillas by foreign tourists, fetching US$13,500 annually per lion.