The endless struggle between human settlers  and wildlife in Queen Elizabeth National Park

The coexistence of human settlements and wildlife within national parks in Uganda continues as a question of debate. 

Last month, the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) declared that they were phasing out 11 human settlements within Queen Elizabeth National Park. This, according to the authority was prompted by continued acts of killing wildlife by residents in the park, who act in retaliation of the animals killing people and damaging property. 

The Queen Elizabeth National Park has 11 enclaves, including fishing villages such as Katwe, Hamukungu, Kazinga, Kasenyi I and II, Kashaka, Kayanja, Kahendero, Rweshama, and Katunguru.

The Park is the most popular savanna park in Uganda and the best place to see lions including the Tree Climbing lions. It has been ranked the best destination for a Uganda Wildlife Safari. It prides in a great diversity of habitats that include: lakes, savannah grasslands, forests and wetlands that serve as home to the biggest variety of large mammals in the country.

UNESCO has gazetted the park as a man and biosphere reserve, and statistics indicate that the population in these communities has grown to an estimated 60,000 people which has placed pressure on the resources, prompting competition between humans and wildlife. 

UWA says the double occupancy has become unsustainable and there is need to relocate the communities. 

In the past, the government has initiated several programmes to mitigate the conflict for resources. The Uganda Wildlife Authority conducts a community conservation unit that deliberately engages in community development efforts and creates various opportunities for its host communities to benefit from tourism development both directly and indirectly. Tourists are encouraged to visit communities to experience the uniqueness of their culture as well as to contribute to business and causes at that level. 

More deliberately, UWA shares 20% of its annual park revenue with the people surrounding the national parks and wildlife reserves in the country. Under the revenue sharing initiative, money can is spent on household and community projects that contribute to reducing human-wildlife conflict, or contribute to improving the livelihoods of households in frontline villages. Projects like goat rearing, piggeries, tree planting, beekeeping, and Irish potato growing have been funded at the household level.

The construction
 of schools, health centres, feeder roads, and water tanks have been funded at the community level, as have projects to help reduce damage to crops by wild animals such as planting Mauritius thorn hedges.

But in the latest development, UWA asserts that permanently relocating these communities remains the most effective solution. The Authority offficials argue that close interaction between community members and wildlife not only hampers conservation efforts but also enables poachers to disguise themselves as locals, resulting in further harm to the park’s wildlife.

Fencing, the officials argue, would turn is impractical and would turn the park into a zoo, thus defeating the purpose of having a park. 

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