Waterways Project Overview
The network of boat stations across QE is proving to be successful beyond initial hopes. Their strategic positioning is reducing the elephant and hippo poaching problems, in particular, across both Lakes George and Edward.
The removal of unlicensed boats and illegal fisherman using undersized gauge nets, catching all fish including young ones, has meant that the legitimate fishing communities are beginning to see a small recovery in their catches and fishing village economies are gradually improving. Control of fishing in restricted areas has also resulted in fewer crocodiles, otters and birds being caught and drowned in the nets.
The Albertine Rift is dominated by water courses yet, until four years ago, the Uganda Wildlife Authority had no ranger patrol boats or expertise for boat operations. This left the regions exposed to all forms of illegal activities; poaching, bushmeat and ivory smuggling, and illegal fishing. In QECA hippo poaching for meat not only continues at very high levels but is also the most frequent form of poaching. The hippopotamus was listed for the first time as a species threatened with extinction in the IUCN published ‘2006 Red List’. In the mid 1990s, crocodile were reported in QE for the very first time. However their expansion across QE is being limited due to the enormous number of illegal fishing nets in Lakes George and Edward and in the Kazinga Channel.
A potential solution
With the support of our donors, UCF has just finished construction of our fourth marine ranger station (at Kamulikwezi) on northern Lake George in Queen Elizabeth National Park.
The ability for rangers to be deployed by boat means they do not have to travel long distances overland. They can be deployed anywhere along a shoreline, silently and without detection. By hampering the waterborne movements of poachers and wildlife traffickers and the moving of dried meat and animals these illegal activities will be forced to return to road and land’ access where their passage is much more hazardous.
UCF together with the Uganda Wildlife Authority now have 4 boat stations in QECA with patrol boat capabilities at: Mweya (the main tourist centre for QECA), Rwenshama on Lake Edward (a fishing community), Kashaka on southern Lake George (also a fishing community) and now Kamulikwezi.
Redundant shipping containers are converted to make the boat stations, which comprise of an administration office and workshop and a secure area for storage of the patrol boat and engine and life-saving equipment.A full training programme was commissioned by UCF for the Uganda Wildlife Authority marine rangers in 2008. Thirty rangers have taken the course which covers boat operation, maintenance, water safety and rescue procedures to Royal Yachting Association standards.
UWA’s visible presence reduces shoreline bushmeat smoking, waterborne bushmeat smuggling and wildlife and ivory trafficking.
Suspects have been arrested and prosecuted and illegal items (such as fishnets, canoes and bags of charcoal) confiscated.
Lake rescue and recovery
Life is dangerous for people living on or adjacent to the National Parks. In 2009, two boys were killed while collecting drinking water from Lake George. UWA – with the support of UCF-funded equipment and training – was able to help recover the bodies, allowing the families to grieve properly.
Fishermen have been saved from drowning and sick people have made use of the boats to be quickly ferried for treatment.
This added community benefit brings acceptance of law enforcement within the community.
Research and monitoring
Thanks to the Kashaka boat on southern Lake George, the first hippo census across QE since the 1960s, was carried out by UWA’s Research and Monitoring Warden in 2007. UCF is working with UWA on the next survey in early 2010.
Project update – January 2012
The construction and equipping of the four marine stations is only one step in a comprehensive programme. UCF is now focusing on their successful operation, enabling them to coordinate with land based patrols and with each other. The marine stations have each been equipped with new patrol boats and engines and have had a huge positive impact on wildlife management in the parks. UWA Veterinary doctors said the stations were especially handy in 2010 when an anthrax outbreak hit Queen Elizabeth National Park for six months. In addition, the Monitoring and Research team in UWA has been able to carry out hippo censuses more successfully and reach areas they previously struggled to patrol.
The Uganda Wildlife Authority’s marine ranger units in Queen Elizabeth, Murchison Falls and Lake Mburo National Parks had by end of 2011 been strengthened. The training was funded and run by the Uganda Conservation Foundation. The Marine Rangers are mainly charged with carrying out surveillance of the lakes and rivers to weed out illegal activities, whilst also providing communities and tourism safety and rescue services.
A total of 31 UWA rangers passed the internationally accredited, Royal Yachting Association course in November 2011, getting certificates as coxswains and some as trainers. They have been trained in skills that included safety and rescue techniques, boat operations and maintenance, and first aid. Training sessions have been conducted by a UK-based company Poole Harbour Survival Ltd.
Fighting of illegal activities in the parks is now more effective, with UWA destroying numerous traps and wire snares and arresting many poachers. The marine stations have also been effective in helping to save lives in various fishing and wildlife accidents.
The Waterways project is already – particularly with the opening of the Kamulikwezi marine ranger station – offering invaluable support to the Dura Recovery Project – a very ambitious project opening up a 400km² ‘corridor’ to the north of Lake George.
Uganda Conservation Foundation has played a pivotal role in improving wildlife management, and hopefully will continue providing support in the future.You too can support UCF and help us train more rangers, build and equip more marine stations.
Project update – June 2014
Murchison Falls Conservation Area, Uganda’s largest and oldest conservation area, is endowed with the impressive River Nile, a vital resource for people, land and wildlife, yet also a big threat to wildlife. While the Nile is a source of food for people and animals and attracts valuable tourist revenue, the Nile, like many watercourses in the Protected Areas, provides the means for poachers to move swiftly and silently, killing animals for bush meat and ivory and threatening the livelihoods of local fishing communities.
To counter the illegal activities that are a big threat to wildlife conservation in MF, UCF has joined UWA’s efforts by boosting UWA’s capacity on the water. UCF, with support from its donors has constructed and equipped a marine ranger post at Semanya, to add to the existing post at Paraa. The posts are fully equipped with two patrol boats and engines, and are staffed by rangers trained in boat handling, maintenance and first aid.
Semanya Marine Station and the two boats donated by UCF. Our support is vital to MFCA daily operations on the water. The boats help patrols to reach less accessible places in order to remove illegal snares and enable the inspection of fishing boats to check for illegal activities.UCF has also donated safety equipment to UWA for use by the marine rangers.
To date 16 rangers in Murchison have received training in boat handling, maintenance and rescue. This has greatly boosted marine operations. UWA now daily carries out planned and coordinated water and land patrols to counter poachers, remove and destroy snares, remove illegal boats and check legal boats to ensure that they do not have any poaching items with them. This represents a significant advance in protecting both the wildlife as well as the livelihoods of legitimate fishing communities and in countering over-fishing. Protection of wildlife increases the potential for tourism, and thus encourages regional development.
Water ways and first aid training – November 2014 update
In October, UCF completed another wave of ranger training. 19 rangers in total were trained. 9 from MF and 10 from QE. 4 individuals from Marasa Africa received training in waterways and first aid.
UCF also donated 5 state-of-the-art first aid kits to the Uganda Wildlife Authority. This was after the first aid training in Queen Elizabeth National Park. Rangers in the field will use the kits while protecting Ugandan’s from poachers.
UCF plans more support to empower UWA in its marine capacity. If you would like to support this work, please click here.
UCF wishes to acknowledge the funding for this programme provided by the principal donor David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation and the other donors, International Elephant Foundation, Tusk Trust and Riverbanks Zoo (Columbia, USA).
UCF continues to seek further funding in order to expand and complete the programme. If you would like to help with a donation towards this project please click here.