Lions, Hyenas Poisoned in Ugandan Park

Alexis Okeowo in Kampala, Uganda
for National Geographic News
August 20, 2007

Cattlemen living in Uganda's popular Queen Elizabeth National Park are poisoning native predators to protect their livestock, park authorities have said. But the herdsmen deny poisoning the predators.

The Basongora herders originally lived in the area that is now Queen Elizabeth National Park, but were displaced in 1954 when the park was created.

Many of the 10,000 Basongoras moved to the Democratic Republic of the Congo's Virunga National Park, according to the AFP news agency.

But the 1998 to 2003 civil war in Congo, which killed 3.8 million people and affected eight neighboring countries, gave them no choice but to move back to Uganda, and in March 2006 the Ugandan government temporarily resettled the community in the national park.

The herdsmen are now waiting for the Ugandan government to move them to another location. (See a map of Uganda.)

In the meantime, the group has short-term rights to graze its 40,000 cattle in Queen Elizabeth National Park. The herders' goats and cows are often easy prey, said Tom Okello, the park's chief warden. To protect their livelihoods, the herders reportedly started leaving poisoned bait.

Undercover Poisoning?

Park officials say that the herders' presence coincides with a marked decline in wild predators.

To poison the predators, the cattlemen allegedly force some of their calves to ingest agricultural chemicals and then leave them in the open to be taken as prey.

"The problem is that this poisoning is being done undercover," Okello said.

Park officials are often unable to trace the source of the poison, since they find only the carcasses that were used as bait.

But autopsies of the dead predators performed by park officials show that the animals were poisoned with Furadan, a strong agricultural insecticide, Okello told AFP.

Continued on Next Page >>


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