Last week, over 40 reformed poachers living adjacent to Queen Elizabeth National Park handed over several hunting weapons during the Rukungiri Protected Areas Conservation Association (RPACA) general meeting.
The handover was witnessed by Uganda Wildlife Association staff(UWA), local government officials, representatives from different Conservation Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and WWF staff
Among the weapons handed over were spears, arrows, pangas and already made traps that the group had been using to poach.
The District Forestry Officer of Rukungiri, Arthur Twinomujuni appreciated UWA and WWF-Uganda for sensitizing the community on dangers of the illegal activity while stressing the benefits of wildlife to the community, the nation and the world at large.
The officer in charge of Human-Wildlife conflict at UWA, Selevest Masereka, thanked the reformed poachers for making a bold statement in support for conservation around Queen Elizabeth and requested them to encourage other poachers to willingly surrender their tools and join reformed poacher associations and tap into the several projects that will be rolled out soon.
“Since you have surrendered all the weapons and promised to work with us to protect the park against all illegal activities, you are now part of us. Let us continue working together to protect our resources” , added Masereka.
The reformed poachers committed to work with UWA to protect the park and get involved in activities that conserve nature. They however appealed to UWA and other players to involve them in some projects so that they are able to earn a living and run their families.
In Uganda, poaching has always been handled through the usual means of deployments, ambushes and patrols. Usually, the suspected poachers are arrested and prosecuted.
Queen Elizabeth National Park provides protection for over 95 species of mammal, including buffaloes, hippopotami, crocodiles, elephants, leopards, lions and chimpanzees, and over 620 species of birds.