After reports that the residents Hoima city in West Division have killed two chimpanzees in separate cases the Uganda Wild Life Authority (UWA), has launched vigorous community engagement activities to reverse the trend.
The killing of the two chimps is a short period of time is suspected to be in retaliation for the death of a toddler that was grabbed by a chimpanzee from the house in Mwendante village at the beginning of last month.
During one of the latest community sensitization meetings at Bulemwa Primary School, Wilson Kagoro, the Community Liaison Officer at UWA attached to Murchison Falls National Park warned residents against attacking chimpanzees saying it is an offense according to the Wild Life Act and currently punishable by a penalty of sh2b or 20 years jail sentence or both.
“I did not come to interrogate whoever could have participated in the alleged murder fo chimpanzees. I want us to reach a consensus and see how we can live I harmony with wildlife. You are all very important but chimpanzees are also important to the economy and the environment”, said Mr Kagoro.
While reacting to angry residents who demanded immediate relocation of the chimpanzees claiming they were brought to their area by UWA, Kagoro declared that some UWA guards would remain on ground to map out the chimpanzee corridors in the area as well as sensitise communities of co-existence with chimps as long term plans also get mooted.
Robert Kyomuhendo, the Hoima city West Division Mayor, urged UWA to take the matter seriously since it has become a biggest threat to the general population especially women and children.
“You should take them to other areas because this is the city where animals are not zoned to live. I am informed that a woman to collect firewood or water in the peripherals of the city for now needs three men armed with machetes to accompany her. Everything is now complicated”, he said.
Meanwhile some residents demanded the government to value them than chimpanzees or else, the conflict escalate.
Godfrey Mbabazi whose child was killed by the chimpanzee says it has left a unique experience of fear in his family. “The remaining three children and wife up to now feel insecure. I don’t work normally because I have to keep my ear to the ground to ensure my children are out of fear and danger of chimpanzee attacks”, he said.
Environmentalist are warning of escalation of human-wildlife conflict as long as the natural environment is not protected from encroachment.
At the beginning of this year, Moses Semahunge, the Bulindi Chimpanzee and Conservation Project noted a change in the feeding behavior of chimpanzees when some had been sighted eating meat which is strange amongst chimpanzee families in Hoima.
Nobody knows how the relationship between man and wildlife will be in Hoima and Kikuube districts when the 22squaremiles of the disputed part of Bugoma Central Forest Reserve is successfully degraded. It is the second largest natural forest in the country and home to numerous suicides of wildlife and vegetation.