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UWA explains death of six lions in suspected poisoning

Queen Elizabeth is the only park in Uganda where tree climbing lions can be found (PHOTO/File)

KANUNGU— Conservationists are mourning the death of six lions that were reportedly killed with poison in Queen Elizabeth National Park, southwest of Uganda.

In a statement on Saturday afternoon, Uganda Wildlife Authority said that the carcasses of the lions were found last evening at Ishasha sector with some parts missing.

The agency added that eight dead vultures were found at the scene, which points to possible poisoning of the lions by unknown people.

“UWA strongly condemns the illegal killing of wildlife because it does not only impact negatively on our tourism as a country, but also revenue generation which supports conservation and community work in our protected areas,” the conservation body added.

The killed are thought to be victims of villagers who blame wildlife for killing a cow but authorities say given that some of the parts of the lions are missing, “we can’t rule out illegal wildlife trafficking”.

The poisonings come just six weeks after the UN’s World Wildlife Day focused on big cats and efforts to protect them.

Agricultural encroachment by people is happening along many of the park’s boundaries, the group said, creating conflict when crops and livestock take up areas formerly used by wildlife.

The Queen Elizabeth National Park, which covers more than 700 sq miles in Kasese district, is home to one of only two populations worldwide of tree-climbing lions. The other is in Tanzania

This is not the first time lions are being killed by poisoning in Uganda. In 2018, about 11 lions were poisoned to death in the same national park by surrounding communities over accusations that the beasts were killing their cattle.

Officials said before the death of the 11 lions in 2018, Uganda had an estimated 400 lions, with 100 of them residing in Queen Elizabeth National Park.

Lions are a key tourism attraction in Uganda’s national parks. Tourism is Uganda’s top foreign exchange earner contributing almost 10 percent of the country’s GDP. Uganda earns 1.6 billion U.S. dollars from nature tourism annually.

Before the COVID-19 outbreak, Uganda was receiving about 1.5 million tourists per year.

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