Climb aboard any safari vehicle and ask guests what they want to see most and the answer is generally unanimous.....big cats. Lions and leopards are the most popular animals that people want to see while on safari. Unfortunately, due to ongoing pressures of growing human populations, the populations of large carnivores, mainly lions, leopards and hyenas are decreasing as a result of habitat loss. Thankfully, the Uganda Carnivore Program, in close collaboration with the Uganda Wildlife Authority, is working hard to minimize human wildlife conflict and is dedicated to monitoring, researching and conserving the large predators in Uganda.
The Uganda Carnivore Program bases its core activities in the northern sector of Queen Elizabeth National Park in western Uganda. The pressures facing the carnivores of this area are not unique, but rather are typically experienced throughout Africa. As human populations increase in the areas surrounding the park and its enclave villages, the conflict between wildlife and humans rise. The Uganda Carnivore Program (“UCP”) takes a multi-disciplinary approach to conservation. Since the mid 1990s, they have focused on training and research as well as community-based activities that increase local participation in conservation and promote human-wildlife coexistence. Working in conjunction with the Uganda Wildlife Authority, their research consists of monitoring carnivore ecology and health and tracking their movements near “conflict zones” where there is the potential to come in contact with people and livestock. UCP makes recommendations to the UWA in regards to management of carnivores and also assists in the mitigation process during times of human-wildlife conflict.
UCP also works closely with the villages surrounding the park on education and methods to reduce the conflict between the villagers and the wildlife. Through the research and monitoring of the animals, villages can be warned when predators are in the area and given the tactics and skills to protect themselves and their livestock. Between 2006 and 2012 the primary cause of death to large carnivores in the northern sector of Queen Elizabeth NP was human related, with poisoning in retaliation for livestock depredation being the number one cause. However, in the past three years, there have been no recorded incidences of poisoning in the villages in which UCP works. UCP educates people on the benefits of wildlife and aids them in developing community based programs in which they can directly benefit from local tourism. Current activities of the UCP include conservation education outreach programs in village schools which inform the youth of the village about the important role that wildlife has to play and the importance of conservation efforts for long term sustainability.
An important aspect of the Uganda Carnivore Program is educating visitors on the wildlife of the park as well as the people that live in the surrounding areas of Queen Elizabeth NP. The best way to learn more is to participate in the lion tracking experience. Bookings for this can be made through the Uganda Wildlife Authority. You can contact UCP to arrange a visit to the park’s villages, where you can watch cultural performances and purchase locally made crafts. Besides visiting Queen Elizabeth NP and participating in the activities offered, how can you help protect the large carnivores? The UCP operates on limited funds and welcomes support for their initiatives. This can be done in several ways, either by making a donation or by sponsoring certain aspects of their activities. To find out more and how you can be of help, visit the Uganda Carnivore website to learn more about their activities and contact them directly.
It’s hard to imagine going on safari and not having the opportunity to see large carnivores. As human beings, we all play an important role in the conservation efforts needed to combat the pressure that growing populations are placing on wildlife. We all need to do our part and play an active role in protecting them; our wildlife and large carnivores are depending on us!