A section of tour guides, operators and wild life conservationists have expressed concern about a group of UPDF officers attached to Queen Elizabeth National Park who they claim are grabbing meat from lions after successful hunts.
The Ishasha southern section of Queen Elizabeth, is located near River Ntungwe and close to the DRC border. It is this section that has tree climbing lions also known as the Ishasha lions.
At this section, lions hunt for game meat from Buffaloes, antelopes, kobs among others, but a tour guide who preferred anonymity says that some soldiers wait for these lions to bring down their meat before chasing them away and retreating with the meat to their residencies.
According to the guide who narrated to Nile Post following an ordeal he witnessed Tuesday, two lions had killed a buffalo before they were chased off it by predating officers.
“Today I have witnessed something very sad in Ishasha, whoever is around Ishasha find out you will confirm that UPDF soldiers have chased the Lions off their prey and took the whole of it to their barracks for food. These two male lions fought and killed their Buffalo and these hungry guys just came and took it. Then after all that we all ask ourselves why lions are not seen in Ishasha anymore. Am very disappointed,” said a safari guide who was at the scene.
“Its true, we have been around and all our clients are annoyed but only saying that the authorities have to do something” said another safari guide on the site.
Another person who is based in the area said “it happens all the time”.
When further pressed to elaborate how humans could chase an entire pride from meat, the guide said; “Humans remain humans, they are superior and even these animals know it.”
However, the army has refuted these claims, citing that their soldiers are fully catered for and would not be involved in such behavior.
“The UPDF is taking good care of the welfare of its soldiers including timely provision of rations,” army spokesperson, Richard Karemire told Nile Post.
Benedict Ntale, Vice chairman of the Association of Uganda Tour Operators (AUTO) told Nile Post that if true, the act of grabbing meat from lions would have great impact on the tourism industry as it would cause lions to migrate off the safari route into inaccessible sections of the park.
“Lions take days without catching game because they are not strategic runners but hunters. If they take three days to kill and then their kill is taken away, they may starve or start going for domestic hunts where they could be targeted and poisoned, leading to death,” Ntale said.
“When animals get frustrated they start migrating; they can cross over. Animals stay around a place where they can feed and hold territory. Once Ishasha becomes hard for them, they could migrate hence it will become hard for operators to get business,” he added.
It should be noted that in this very park, lions were poisoned to death allegedly by members of the surrounding communities.
Ishasha section is famous for the tree-climbing lions; a trip to this section is incredibly memorable and worthwhile. There is huge investment in lodging facilities to attract visitors to stay and have an experience of these big cats hanging in Acacia and Fig Trees. Lions are not typical climbers thus seeing them in trees is an awesome experience.