By Edwin Muhumuza
The Minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, Rtd, Col. Tom Butime has said Uganda still has plenty of Lions in the Queen Elizabeth National Park.
This following a fact-finding meeting alongside other stakeholders, at Enjojo Lodge, to understand among others, circumstances surrounding the gruesome killing of 6 tree-climbing lions, on the 19th of March 2021.
Four men suspected to have been involved in the killings are currently in police custody in Kampala after a joint security operation of Uganda Wildlife Authority, Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF), and the Uganda Police, helped by the local community who identified the suspects.
The meeting also resolved to do more investigations into the circumstances surrounding the grisly killing to identify all the players involved amid emphasis that Wildlife poaching is a criminal offence.
The minister has assured all domestic and foreign tourists that despite the loss of the 6 lions, Uganda still had plenty of lions.
“Let this not discourage you from exploring our national parks that are also full of other animals aside from the lions like over 5000 elephants, 2000 buffalos, 800 giraffes, birds, and many more,” he said.
Mr. Sam Mwandha, the ED, UWA appreciated security agencies and local community members who collaborated with UWA rangers to have the suspects arrested but even called for a stronger mechanism to ensure the safety of both the animals and that of the livelihoods of the communities.
‘We know that they killed the lions, but what was behind it all? What are the linkages? Who are they working with? We need to get into that and that will continue to be worked on until we conclude,’ adding that there was a need to ensure that the revenue that UWA shares with the communities is appropriately used and that the communities benefit from the money.
According to Ssekandi Shafic, the Kanungu RDC, it had been established through confessions that the killers, who are residents in communities neighbouring the park, had been offered between UGX40,000 to UGX80,000 for each lion’s head by yet to-be known buyers.
Ms. Lilly Ajarova, the UTB CEO, reiterated the need by communities to conserve and protect the animals and other species that contribute to the Tourism Sector.
“As an agency philosophically driven by tourism sustainability, we are in a joint effort with the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife, and Antiquities, Tourism Agencies, Local Leaders as well as the Tourism Police in getting to the bottom of the matter at hand and seek justice for the dead lions and curb the criminals of the offence who will be sentenced accordingly,” she said, adding that the death of the lions at this particular time when the tourism sector was reeling from the effects of COVID-19 was regrettable.