Uganda Lions Face Extinction

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Uganda lions face extinction unless urgent measures are taken, the Wildlife Disease Association (WDA) Africa and the Middle East section have warned.

Chaired by Dr. Zahoor Kashmiri, WDA disclosed that the number of lions left in the entire country was less than 1,000. In the Queen Elizabeth National Park, the lion population has slipped from 94 in 1999 to 39 today. It would take 20 years to undo the damage done over the past 15 months, experts say.

The association sounded the warning at its 5th conference that ended at Hotel Margherita, Kasese district, on Tuesday.

In a paper titled Impact of diseases on population viability of lions in Murchison National Park, Margaret Driciru, Ludwig Siefert, Christine Dranzoa and Michael Ocaido said lions were found in only three out of the 10 national parks.

"The current world population estimate is 23,000 to 39,000 lions, with less than 1,000 in Uganda," they said.

Though the rate of decline in Uganda is unknown, the researchers believe it is dramatic and may irreversible. "The lion populations are under intense pressure from trans-humanism, land use conflicts, pastoralism, enclaves within the protected area and diseases," they noted.

Being top predators, "lions hold a high ecological position as ecosystem modifiers, keynote flagship species and principal tourist attractions thus a big role in ecosystem health moderation."

They warned that if there were any disease outbreaks affecting the lions, results would be catastrophic.

Opening the conference, state minister for tourism Serapio Rukundo said pastoralism was undermining the country's efforts to combat wildlife diseases.

He said the movement of livestock in and out of Uganda from neighbouring countries was a big challenge to disease prevention and control.

Rukundo said livestock diseases were denying Uganda access to global markets, thus frustrating poverty eradication. He called on the Basongora and other pastoral communities in the country to re-organise themselves into communal ranches and thus help in disease control.

Uganda Wildlife Executive Director, Moses Mapesa said: "UWA tried to carry out its mandate but other agencies and politicians have interfered."