Communities living around Murchison Falls National Park and Bugungu Wildlife Reserve in Buliisa District have petitioned the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) over the incessant dangerous animal incursion and attacks on people.
The 564 residents want UWA to immediately investigate the actual cause and increase in wild animal invasions to human settlements that leaves people mauled to death, crops destroyed and houses demolished.
Since February 2022, Buliisa sub-county has had three people including a school boy, woman and an elderly man aged 15, 42 and 67 respectively mauled and killed by stray elephants from the adjacent Murchison Falls National Park.
“…….our lives and sources of livelihood continue to be threatened despite previous communal outcries to Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA). As a community, efforts to drive away and stop the wild animals most especially elephants from straying into our gardens have yielded no fruit.” The petition says.
In their petition dated yesterday (Thursday), August 10, 2023, the residents want UWA and other relevant stakeholders, conservationists and experts to devise and implement long-term sustainable strategies to ensure the protection of wildlife while also safeguarding human life and livelihood.
The residents say UWA should also collaborate with local organisations and community leaders to raise awareness about how people can live in harmony with wildlife and educate the community on how to respond appropriately during encounters with elephants to minimise the harm.
Hailing from 17 villages, the residents suspect the animal invasions to be fanned by oil and gas developments in Murchison Falls National Park that involve heavy and loud machinery driving wild animals especially elephants from their habitat and straying into human settlements and gardens.
This suspicion is being investigated by UWA and TotalEnergies E&P Uganda.
In the petition that UWA received on the same day of writing, the residents indicate how they have lost several hectares of their food and cash crops including maize, sweet potatoes, cassava, bananas, pumpkins, watermelon, beans and others to the animals, thus, causing food insecurity and livelihood constraints.
“The recurring invasions by stray elephants that roam in search of water and pasture mostly during the onset of the dry season and throughout the period have forced many farmers to harvest their crops prematurely to avoid incurring losses due to persistent invasion and destruction by stray animals and in the long run, this poses a threat to food security in the community,” the petition reads in part.
The petitioners are residents of Kizongi, Kigoya, Bugana, Kisansya, Kigwera, Kabolwa, Avogera and Kakindo among other villages.