Uganda Conservation Foundation

Project LocationQueen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda
Project TypeWildlife and habitat conservation, Endangered species protection
Endangered SpeciesElephant, hippopotamus, leopard, African grey parrot
Land Area Protected2000 km2
Benefiting LocallyMany villages
Local People Employed20

Uganda Conservation Foundation

Protecting wildlife from poachers in the Queen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda, has taken a new and very effective turn. For the first time, the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) rangers are conducting their operations by boat, conductiing anti-poaching patrols, providing a safety and rescue service for the local fishing communities and guiding tourists. The Uganda Conservation Foundation (UCF) are the instigators of this ambitious Waterways Project which are providing marine based patrols across the Queen Elizabeth, Murchison Falls and Lake Mburo National Parks in Uganda.

Uganda Conservation Foundation

The Uganda Conservation Foundation (UCF) evolved from a research project called Elephants, Crops and People undertaken by Michael Keigwin in the 1990s. During his period of research he saw the daily threats facing people and wildlife alike and recognized that simple yet effective solutions could come through the support of a secure and Uganda focused funding route. This led to the birth of the Uganda Conservation Foundation which works with various partners to support the recovery and future security of Uganda’s wildlife, natural resources and environment. One such partner is the Uganda Wildlife Authority who UCF work hand in hand with on the Waterways Project.

Waterways Project

The Uganda Conservation Foundation, with funding from Tusk and other donors, has successfully built marine ranger stations at three key strategic locations across the Queen Elizabeth National Park (QENP). Each station is built from a reclaimed shipping container and equipped with a small aluminium boat, an outboard engine and life jackets. As part of the programme, Poole Harbour Sea Survival Ltd very kindly came out to Uganda to train eighteen marine rangers as coxswains to Royal Yachting Association standard, and six to fully qualified trainer standard. So no longer are the rangers only accessing the park and patrolling from land, they now have a very effective and well trained marine component. 

Water Borne Game Guards

The impact of the project has been widespread and impressive. Using the many inlets throughout the Park, teams of men have carried out coordinated commercial poaching incursions along the waterways, smoking bushmeat along the inaccessible papyrus lined shorelines as they worked, before shipping the meat out along the same rivers to meet with vehicles.  Previously helpless to control poachers operating by boat the UWA is now able to fight back.

Chief Park Warden, Tom Okello, says “Our ranger operations, across an area of 2000km², are limited. To travel across the Kazinga Channel to patrol the other bank would usually entail driving 150km to drop off and pick up our rangers, in full view of the poachers! We now have boats to cross whenever and wherever we need our patrols. We are saving valuable funds through the use of the boats, not least because we are less-dependent upon our two vehicles and expensive fuel. We are really winning against the poachers.”

Community Benefits

Illegal fishing practices (undersized nets, unlicensed boats, fishing in restricted breeding areas) have historically undermined the catches of the eleven fishing villages in the QENP and have had a serious impacted on the local economy. Hundreds of illegal fishing boats and nets have now been confiscated and this means that licensed fishermen are able to regain sustainable and economically viable catches. Removing the illegal nets from restricted areas has also had the impact of protecting breeding areas and young fish, as well as protecting the water birds, otters and crocodile that so frequently get tangled in fishing gear.

Tusk Support

The most recent grant enabled UCF to complete the construction of the Semanya marine ranger post in Pakuba, Murchison Falls Conservation Area (MFCA).

UWA had the manpower but not the infrastructure or equipment to effectively counter the law enforcement challenge at MFCA. There was no ranger facility along the western boundary of the park which is the Nile. Support from Tusk allowed UCF to complete the construction of a 6 man ranger accommodation, erect a 40ft converted container which can house 16 rangers. The facility has showers and lavatory block and large rain water collection tanks.

UCF has built five Marine Ranger Stations in Uganda, four in Queen Elizabeth National Park and one in MFCA, with support from Tusk in addition to support for the training of water-borne game guards.

Notes from the field
Previously, poachers as well as bushmeat and ivory smugglers, had the freedom to operate unchallenged throughout the Lakes Edward, George and Albert, and on the rivers, including the Nile. Thanks to UCF, Uganda Wildlife Authority now has five marine ranger stations, six patrol boats, and over 50 trained rangers. The current surge in poaching, a further outbreak of anthrax in hippos in the Queen Elizabeth National Park, and the continual need to provide a rescue service to fishermen and tourists, all place a huge demand on the newly created unit.
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