Drones to protect Uganda wildlife

KAMPALA, Uganda – The Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) has said it will start using spy drones as one of the measures to curb the increasing levels of poaching in its national parks.

Dr. Andrew Sseguya the UWA Executive Director told Media Owners and Editors in Kampala that they intend to take up the measure before the end of the year.

“The new plan we have is zero tolerance to poaching. We launched a tourism intelligence unit to curb poaching which I can report is doing very well. Very soon we shall use spy drones to protect our parks from poachers,” said Sseguya.

He said the drones will be able to capture images/footage of poachers while in the act, for further review.

“We can have one drone with all the necessary equipment including spying cameras,” he said.

A drone is an aircraft without a human pilot on board. Its flight is controlled either autonomously by computers in the vehicle or under the remote control of a pilot on the ground or in another vehicle.

Drones are equipped with infra-red cameras, Global Positioning Systems (GPS), laser or GPS guided missiles and other systems.

The state of poaching of wild animals in Uganda, though the UWA says is not out of control, observers say it is alarming.  A report was released recently indicating that about 25 elephants in Uganda were killed in 2011. Large caches of ivory are always impounded at Entebbe International Airport destined for various destinations.

Since its creation in 1996, UWA inherited the problem of poaching and encroachment of protected areas and has been battling them for sixteen years now.

Fortunately, the efforts UWA has since invested in fighting poaching yielded fruit as the wildlife numbers have continued increasing.

Statistically, large mammals’ censuses revealed that the elephant numbers for Queen Elizabeth Protected Area increased from 400 in 1988 to 2,959 in 2010, buffaloes from 5000 to 14,858, Hippos from 2200 to 5,024 and Kobs from 18,000 to 20,971.

In Murchison Falls Protected Area, elephant population increased from 201 in 1995 to 904 in 2010, buffaloes from 2,477 to 9,192, giraffes from 153 to 930 and Hartebeests from 2,431 to 3,589.

“However, it is important to note that the killing of elephants for ivory generally shot up over the last four years, not only in Uganda but within the entire elephant range states in Africa, for which concerted efforts of governments, NGOs, Donors, communities and the general public are needed to fight it,” said a statement the UWA released in regard to the growing concerns of poaching.

Elephants are generally killed not for meat but for their tusks made of ivory that is used in making expensive jewelry.

Sseguya said they will also take the Biodata and DNA samples of poachers for international exposure.