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Lion Population Declines in Kidepo Valley National Park


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Kidepo Valley National Park has faced significant challenges In recent years, particularly regarding the decline in its lion population due to poaching activities. Sgt John Moi Opio, a member of the law enforcement unit at Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), displayed wire snares and traps recovered from poachers, illustrating the ongoing threat faced by the park’s wildlife.

Aside from poaching, park officials also grapple with the issue of human wildlife conflict. Wild animals, particularly elephants, have caused damage in areas such as Abim and Agago, leading to efforts by UWA to drive them back into the park’s confines.

The significance of tourism to Uganda’s economy cannot be overstated. According to a 2023 report by Tourism Minister Tom Butime, tourism contributed substantially to Uganda’s GDP, with inbound visitors spending over Shs4.58 trillion on tourism services in 2019 alone. Additionally, domestic tourists contributed approximately Shs2.97 trillion to the sector. Tourism directly employs around 1.6 million people, with women constituting 68% of the workforce and accounting for 14.7% of total jobs.

Despite its challenges, Kidepo Valley National Park remains a key contributor to Uganda’s tourism sector. In the last financial year, the park generated Shs1.6 billion in revenue from visiting tourists. Despite the impact of the pandemic, tourist numbers have increased, with approximately 13,000 visitors recorded over the past two years. Notable attractions include buffaloes, lions, leopards, ostriches, and cheetahs, although the lion population has dwindled from 54 individuals five years ago to just 22 presently.

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To address this decline, plans are underway to introduce ten rhinos to Kidepo Valley National Park following a feasibility study indicating the suitability of the habitat. Furthermore, the park has introduced drones for surveillance and conflict management, aiding in the detection of poachers, fire outbreaks, and straying animals.

Despite stringent laws aimed at curbing poaching, the illegal activity persists. The recent Uganda Wildlife Act 2019 increased penalties for wildlife-related offenses, with fines of up to Shs20 billion or life imprisonment for crimes against critically endangered species. However, enforcement efforts are hindered by political interference at the local level, complicating the execution of UWA’s mandate.

Efforts to combat poaching and protect endangered species at Kidepo Valley National Park continue amidst ongoing challenges, highlighting the importance of concerted conservation efforts and effective enforcement of wildlife protection laws.

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