Hunting Game for Its Own Good

By: Grace Nakawooya

That status quo derives from a policy adopted in 2001, when the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), the institution mandated to ensure the safety and preservation of the country's wildlife designed an ingenious technique to arrest declining numbers of the animal population, by curtailing illegal and indiscriminate hunting.

With an absence of restrictive measures in place, local had previous dealt with wildlife as they wished, killing it as much for food as for the purpose of safeguarding their garden, something to which the same wildlife posed a constant threat. In the case of the latter, ranch owners, such as those in the neighbourhood of Lake Mburo National Game park in western Uganda, openly encouraged illegal hunting on their estates as the only way of dealing especially with habivoures that competed with livestock for pasture, or hampered crop production.

The lack of any form of control on hunting of these creatures resulted into a tremendous decline of the animals' population and in fact a total extinction of some species like the black and white rhinos by the late 1970s.

To Deal with this problem, the UWA's remedy was drastic as it was innovative. Hunting, which had been bunned in 1979 was re-legalised -formally recognizing the practice as a sport. This measure, introduced as a pilot project in Western Uganda, also had an unprecedented incentive thrown into the works: ranch owners would be paid for animals killed on their farms.

UWA then went ahead to license a company, Game Trails Uganda Limited, to which it developed authority to bring hunters into the country, handle the importation and exportation of the hunters' ammunition, rifles and trophies, as well as collect the hunting fees.

With game hunter in the picture, it suddenly wasn't a great idea to summon a platoon of hunters to kill one baboon, whose meat does not rank amongst the country's delicacies, when ranch owners could protect a animal that strayed onto their land, in the hope that if these hunters came around and killed it, they could earn up to 10% of the value that UWA has placed on the animal

The value placed on animals, which sport hunters pay for the game they pursue, ranges from $90 to over $500. The value placed on a baboon for example, is $90, while rare species like the eland cost hunter $650.

The turnaround, in as far as bolstering animal population is concerned, has been tremendous. UWA's report shows only about 5 (on average) animals killed every year in comparison to 50 animals that were killed per year before the pilot project was put in place and illegal hunting reports have reduced by more than half.

The conservation effort is earning an average of $2400 a year, collected from sport hunters -and even if by any means a mammoth return, it goes some way in showing that a little innovation, ranch owners and wildlife can be turned from foes to friends, exactly where UWA wants them to be.

That ultimately ensures tourists and sport hunting enthusiasts have more to aim at, whether it is with camera lens or hunting rifle. And of course, the county's wildlife get to live a while longer.

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