Four people were arrested in Uganda a few days after the discovery of six dead big cats in Queen Elizabeth Park, one of the most famous in the country. These lions, known for their unusual tree climbing ability, attract thousands of visitors each year.
After mountain gorillas, “climbing lions” are the most popular species for tourists in Uganda. So when these agile beasts are found mutilated in the most famous national park in the country, it creates a shock. Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) makes it almost a national affair and demands justice. She is committed to strengthening the protection of lions and wishes to reassure visitors.
“Our national parks remain safe and attractive to our visitors and there are still lions in Queen Elizabeth and other places”Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA)
in a press release
All of these crimes have a negative impact on tourism which is a central pillar of the Ugandan economy.
The investigation launched after the macabre discovery in the Queen Elizabeth National Park led to the trail of illegal trafficking. One of the four suspects arrested hid the decapitated heads of four of the six lions killed in his garden. There were also paws and other limbs, as well as poison bottles, spears, a machete and a hunting net, according to a UWA statement.
The arrest of four people was made possible thanks to the involvement of environmental protection associations. The four suspected poachers risk a heavy penalty.
Traffic that continues
While the sale of wildlife trophies is punishable by life in Uganda, convictions are rare. The executives of the criminal organizations involved in this lucrative trafficking often manage to escape prosecution because of corruption. In this context, the fight against wildlife trafficking remains difficult.
Demand continues to grow and concerns several species. Lion bones are often sent to Asia where they are mistakenly believed to have magical powers. In several African countries, “the heads of lions, their tails and their paws are involved in the manufacture of a traditional remedy” supposed to bring good luck, as explained an article of National Geographic.
This is not the first time that lions have been hunted down and killed in Queen Elisabeth National Park. In 2018, eleven lions were found poisoned. Unfortunately, illegal trafficking is not the only threat hanging over wild animals. They are sometimes killed by herders in retaliation for the death of their cattle attacked by predators.