UCF has a comprehensive plan for the recovery of the Dura sector: 400km² of land north of Lake George, which builds on the success of the Waterways project.
Dura – a Ramsar site and Biosphere Reserve – links QECA to Kibale Forest National Park. Wildlife has literally been wiped out over the past 40 years. There is no tourism in the area and Dura currently receives less than 1% of QECA’s patrol resources from UWA. Elephants from Kibale and QECA are both in need of the additional resources and habitat provided by Dura.
In this area, once famous for elephant, the numbers have declined dramatically; evidence of illegal human activities and poaching is high. This area is extremely important as it sits between Kibale Forest National Park to the north and QEPA, to the south, locations where an abundance of elephant and other wildlife exist, Large populations of chimpanzees, leopards, hippopotamus and crocodiles also once thrived but heavy poaching, particularly during the unsettled years 1960-1986, has taken its toll.
Due to the high levels of poaching in the Dura area and the thin corridor connecting the north and south of Lake George areas, elephants are rarely seen. The availability of this area to elephant is vital not only for elephant conservation, but also to allow the ‘architects of the habitat’ to restore the ecosystem for the benefit of all wildlife; the area is rapidly becoming impenetrable bush-land that is causing problems to herbivores, carnivores and tourism potential alike.
Protection of KFNP and QEPA has steadily increased over the last decade in all areas of the National Parks, with the exception of the Dura sector and this must be corrected.
Planned recovery is now strategically critical to the recovery of the region as a whole.
- Dura Sector currently has:
- No land or marine access and no internal roads.
- No ranger accommodation and hardly any ranger patrols.
- An access problem for wildlife: the thin 1km wide Mahokya corridor connecting central QE to Dura is overrun by human activity, sprawling villages, cattle and goats.
- Few if any mega herbivore left.
- The potential to be the last site in QE where a large increase in wildlife numbers could be seen.
Two aspects are critical to recovering Dura. Firstly, eliminating illegal activity and ensuring elephant and other wildlife have safe access into and out of the area. The area can then be recovered, and UCF is leading this by developing access and infrastructure in the area; community conservation, education and tourism then follows.
UCF’s work with UWA will provide a much needed foundation for wildlife recovery and will include:
- Community conservation: controlling illegal fishing, holding sensitisation meetings and providing a lake rescue service.
- Research and monitoring: baselines for planning and measuring success.
- Initiating local activities for economic development and job creation.
- Supporting UWA’s development of a Dura management plan.
- Increase the capacity to help UWA recover Dura. Having a permanent base and link to two existing Marine Stations extending from the South to the North of Lake George will dramatically increase the frequency and area coverage of patrols in the area.
- Provide access into the heart of Dura, allowing UWA to reach previously inaccessible areas easily, quickly and without detection.
- Clear the region of illegal activity. The removal of snares, poacher camps, smuggling routes and illegal boats will have an immediate impact on the safety of the area for elephants.
- New UWA ranger accommodation in the Dura allows more time to be spent monitoring illegal activities and less time spent in transit across difficult terrain.
- Connect central QECA, the Dura sector and Kibale Forest. This will allow safe migration of animals to make full use of the 4000 km2 area, reducing the likelihood of crop raiding in local villages during periods of food scarcity.
- Relieve pressure on the central QEPA habitats and Kibale Forest where elephant numbers are increasing. Enable multi-species to repopulate Dura.
- In real terms, the park will increase in size, making it the biggest inclusive area for elephant conservation in south western Uganda. Increased tourism opportunities will lead to increased revenue-sharing opportunities for the local community.
- Economic development through local employment (casual labour during construction, additional opportunities to support tourism) and local procurement (of construction materials for example).
- Monitoring of habitat and gradual change; understanding of interaction between vegetation structure and the elephant population as the area recovers from heavy human disturbance.
- Integration of the Dura sector into UWA’s strategic management plan for the first time in over forty years.
How can this be achieved?
In 2010 UWA will have two ranger posts built by UCF across Dura to allow up to 14 rangers to be permanently accommodated in the region. Provision is also made to support and equip mobile ranger units, with tents, GPS and bicycles.
On Lake George, the Waterways project has already helped with the building of the Kashaka and Kamulikwezi Marine Ranger stations, and the provision of speed boats and ranger training. Marine rangers can stop poachers smuggling meat out of Dura – anywhere along the shoreline – by boat.
Better access will allow the rangers and UCF team to remove snares and carry out basic research to monitor wildlife dispersal through the area.
These actions will provide the much-needed conditions for the recovery of the Dura region to its former wildlife-rich habitat.
The Uganda Conservation Foundation does not underestimate the difficulty of this ambitious project. Support for this project has been generously provided by David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation, International Elephant Foundation, SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund, Tusk Trust and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.