Conservation in Uganda
Conservation in Uganda is the protection and sustainable use of the country's rich natural resources. It became a significant movement during the British colonial period in the early 20th century and continues to play a major role in Uganda's political economy, as it underpins the tourist industry accounting for a fifth of the country's exports.
History of conservation
British Protectorate (1894-1962)
Active concerted management of wildlife in the Uganda Protectorate began in 1923 with the formation of the Elephant Control Department. The object of this organization was to reduce the damage to peasant agriculture by limiting the size and range of elephant populations. Culling programs killed an average of 1000 elephants per year.
Wildlife Conservation Society
The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) began conservation work in Uganda through conducting biological surveys of savanna parks in 1957. Since then, the WCS has continued to provide funds for conservation almost every year despite the era of Idi Amin and the civil wars that followed.
During the 1970s and 80s, they supported conservation of Kibale Forest, which became a national park in 1993. WCS has supported the building of research and management capacities of Ugandans through aiding student research projects, helping to develop the Institute of Tropical Forest Conservation (ITFC), and more recently providing training to the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) and National Forest Authority (NWA) staff.
The WCS is currently supporting projects that build the capacity of Ugandan protected area managers. Working with the UWA, they have developed a monitoring and research plan for every national park and wildlife reserve in Uganda.
A census of the mountain gorilla populations over the last two years has shown increases in the numbers both in Bwindi (320) and the Virungas (380), bringing the total world population to just 700. Zoning of the forests is necessary so that fewer valuable areas can be accessed by local people for firewood, medicinal plants and other non-timber forest products.
WCS also supports the ITFC to undertake applied research on mountain gorilla conservation challenges, the effects of hard edges on long-term viability of forest islands, and the effectiveness of conservation strategies involving local people.
In 2015, the published results of the "The Great Elephant Census", an aerial survey undertaken by the WCS along with the UWA, indicated that the number of African bush elephants has increased by almost 600 percent from a low of 700 to 800 individuals in the 1980s up to 5,000 individuals. The survey was conducted in Queen Elizabeth National Park (2,913 elephants), Murchison Falls National Park (1,330 elephants), and Kidepo Valley National Park (656 elephants). The survey did not include protected areas with elephant populations like Kibale National Park, Rwenzori Mountains National Park, Semliki National Park, and the Toro-Semliki Wildlife Reserve as well as closed canopy areas like the Maramagambo forest within Queen Elizabeth National Park and the Kaniyo Pabidi forest within Murchison Falls National Park.
The major threats to protected areas include poaching for bushmeat, illegal timber harvesting, charcoal burning, and encroachment for farmland. Each of these has degraded protected areas over the past 40 years and led to reduced numbers of wildlife. Better protection in the 1990s has led to a slow but steady increase in many large mammal numbers, but some continue to decline.
Uganda has 506 protected forest reserves and 60 protected areas, including nine national parks: Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Kibale National Park, Kidepo Valley National Park, Lake Mburo National Park, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, Mount Elgon National Park, Murchison Falls National Park, Queen Elizabeth National Park, Rwenzori Mountains National Park, and Semuliki National Park.
Uganda is home to a vast number of species, including a population of mountain gorillas in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, gorillas and golden monkeys in the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, and hippos in the Murchison Falls National Park.
- World Bank 2011.
- Meredith 2001, p. 126.
- Wildlife Conservation Society 2012.
- Watching Wildlife: East Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda. Lonely Planet. 2009.
- James Kalema; Henk Beentje. (2012). Conservation checklist of the trees of Uganda. Richmond, Surrey, UK : Kew Pub. ISBN 9781842463772