After a friend of mine who was so obsessed with the delicacy of game meat complained of the scarcity of the same, I thought this was a tip to investigate. First after it is apparent that the sale of game meat is considered Illegal in the country, but odds are all beaten to have it among the menu in some restaurants in the city.
The Investigator team begun its journey with a search of the restaurants that sell game meat. The nearest we got is in Dewinton Road opposite National theater in the heart of Kampala. Though it’s not on the menu, all folks especially our brothers and sisters from northern Uganda, not surprising is even Members of Parliament, throng this restaurant in search for the game meat.
The most loved is Hippo, Kob, Wathog (wild pig) Buffalo and Crocodile meat. Other spots we discovered had this rare delicacies were restaurants in Wangedeya, Nakulabye, Kansanga, Bwaise, and Kamwokya, all Kampala suburbs.
Our search for game meat in most of these spots we were referred yielded no positive results, prompting the team to hit the road and dig out why the scarcity yet demand is high. The only place we managed to get game meat was at the Carnivore somewhere in Naguru, but the price was a deep dig into the pockets since the managers told us the delicacy is now being imported after Ugandan suppliers failed to meet demand supply.
Along the way, though most of the restaurants we visited didn’t have game meat on their menu, folks told us openly that it’s being sold. The women of the kitchen later revealed how supplies had dwindled. The Investigator later established that suppliers had bases in Wandegeya, Kamwokya, Mulago, Kawempe, Maganjo, Matugga, Kafu, Kiryadongo, Bweyale, Pakwac, Nebbi, and inner suburbs of Masindi and at the shores of Lake Albert in Bulisa the later places being nearer the Murchison Falls National Park.
At Kafu, Kiryadongo and Pakwack locals were cagey to reveal where game meat can be found. In Paidha, where our source told us there was chance, we were openly told that game meat is becoming ‘extremely hard’ to get because the game rangers had tightened their nuts on poaching in the parks.
The Investigator entered Murchison falls National Park. After a 5 hours’ drive, we finally enter the park through Masindi. The grilling 87 kilometer drive on an improved murram stretch from Masindi town finally leads us to the park. The home to Lions, chimps, Buffalos, Warthogs, Elephants, Giraffes, baboons and Hippos among others.
You need a pass to enter the park and if you are carrying out investigations you need an express permission from Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) headquarters in Kampala. This permission is a hard one to get and can only be got either from the Executive Director Dr. Andrew Seguya. The Investigator made calls and sought permission that was granted to tour the park.
Dr. Tom Okello the Assistant Director was away but the person he left behind to act, the Conservation Area Manager Dr. Enyeli Eric who also doubles as the UWAs senior veterinary medic took The Investigator through the details of poaching and activities at the park. “Is it true poaching does exist here at the park?” I put it to Dr. Enyeli. “Hahaha is that why you are here?” he responded. “Yes poaching does take place and that is why game parks have rangers. To take care of animals and guard against encroachment and poaching.” Enyeli who has served for a while as UWAs best veterinary medic has the information at his finger tips. He narrates how they have for sometime been engaging with poachers who are in dire need of game meet and elephant tusks, that is so lucrative in the global market. Indeed some rangers have lost their lives to these poachers.
Enyeli revealed to The Investigator that for the last three months, he has been relaxed because he has not been called to treat wounded animals trapped in snares and traps. “Our rangers have intensified their operations in the parks giving the poachers no chance to get our animals. The purchase of sophisticated monitoring equipment coupled with high intelligence network and community sensitization has also helped a lot.” He said the last time he treated wounded giraffe was some three-four months ago. The giraffe that is now three legged was wounded by a trap set up by the poachers. It was treated and we found it healed.
Enyeli explained how the rangers had for recent years been battling with poachers from neighboring districts of Nwoya, Buriisa, Kiryadondo, Nebbi and Oyam. “These poachers are very well trained. We discovered that majority of them are former soldiers (veterans) with illegal guns.” Enyeli said most times they engage their rangers leading to loss of life. “Sometimes our rangers fall in their ambush and fight back,” he said. He said for the last two years they had captured a cache of ammunition that has been handed over to police while the cache of snares and wheel traps are stored in their armory. The Investigator was shown the UWAs armory in Murchison falls park full of snares. Enyeli said the snares are mainly got from vandalized electricity wires since they are stronger. He said they now also know which neighboring community of the park uses which type of snares or poaching weapon.
Is UWA defeating poachers?
Enyeli said with the acquisition of more monitoring gadgets including the adoption of the marine and air patrols, the honeymoon for the poachers is getting over. “As they think of becoming more sophisticated we are also not sleeping. We now have acquired a chopper for aerial monitoring,” said Enyeli. He said the good news is that there has been a steady increase in the number of animals in Murchison falls National Parks. Elephants, Kobs, Buffalos are increasing in numbers. This means the poaching aspect has been tamed to some extent.”
The UWA spokesman Gesa Simplicious noted that through increase revenue collections from the parks, they were being revamped and the lives of the rangers improved. “Our rangers were leading a hard life. Their residential quarters were dilapidated. This is being improved,” he said. He said they had always acquired new vehicles for game drives and improved security monitoring in all parks.
Gesa said once the rangers are well remunerated they will work harder in safeguarding the animals and parks from encroachers. “The journey has not been easy but we are getting there. UWA is doing its best to work with neighboring park communities.” He said the issue of elephants that was wrecking havoc in Nwoya district had been tamed through construction of trenches to avoid elephants from entering community land.
Murchison falls National Park generates at least UGX10 billion annually of which UGX 2billion is channeled back for community developments. Gertrude Kirabo, the UWA Murchison falls Warden for Community conservation told The Investigator that this quarter alone (July- September) the park received 24, 000 visitors of which 12, 255 were foreigners or foreign residents.
Kirabo notes that the park has a capacity of generating at least UGX 15 billion annually if all conditions are perfect. She highlights marketing, security and availability of necessities needed for better animal welfare as some of the conducive conditions needed to boost the tourism sector