Poaching is a major challenge to conservation worldwide. The Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) has for decades suffered from lack of intelligence gathering, research and law enforcement information management.
Uganda Wildlife Authority for long had poachers walk out of court without charge, free due to lack of hard evidence against them. Often cases fall apart or the sentencing is weak due to the lack of robust evidence. Wild Leo is a UCF project directed towards gathering photo evidence for purposes of prosecution and data collection during patrols.
It is imperative that we get on top of the poaching quickly, ensuring we have successful prosecutions and convictions. American criminologist Dr. Andrew Lemieux has expanded his world-first anti-poaching work from Queen Elizabeth National Park to Murchison Falls. UWA has seen the success of Dr Lemieux’s ‘Wild Leo’ project, achieving convictions with evidence from the GPS cameras now being used by law enforcement rangers. The rangers take cameras on every patrol, recording their route and taking photos of incidences of interest en route. The photos log the time, date and exact place of the incident.
UCF sponsored training at MFCA facilitated by Dr.Andrew Lemieux
This data is downloaded and analysed by specially trained UWA rangers to map incidents of poaching or other illegal activity – such as encroachment and tree cutting – to identify hot-spot areas, monitor wildlife populations and, crucially, collect prosecution evidence which is now being accepted in Uganda’s courts. The data can also be used as a strategic management tool to direct law enforcement and community education activities and to plan future infrastructure developments. UCF has procured 17 geo-location cameras and 5 water proof cameras for UWA and trained 50 UWA rangers in data collection and analysis. Dr.Andrew Lemieux has donated a computer for data analysis and storage to MFCA.
The project prospect
Things are changing; the UWA is already recording major successes about the project and has requested UCF to extend the program to other protected areas. UCF is sourcing funds from our friends to extend the program to Kidepo National Park, Lake Mburo National Park and consolidate the efforts in Murchison Falls and Queen Elizabeth National Park.