A pair of young male lions sit in a bush at the Ol Kinyei conservancy in Maasai Mara. File/AFP
Gulf Today Report
Six lions have been found dead and dismembered following suspected poisoning in Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth National Park
The lion carcasses were found in the Park with most of their body parts missing and surrounded by dead vultures, suggesting poison was at play, according to the Independent.
The UWA condemned the incident as it sought to reassure the public that the park and its wildlife were both still safe.
The Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) said it was "saddened" by the death of these particular lions, known for their unusual ability to climb trees in the famous reserve.
An investigation has been launched, with a team at the scene working with local police to determine exactly what happened to the cats, UWA said.
"Given that some of the body parts of the lions are missing, we cannot rule out illegal wildlife trafficking," UWA's communications manager Bashir Hangi said in a statement.
The park shares a border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and its famous Virunga National Park, a habitat for rare mountain gorillas, where armed groups are believed to operate.
In February Italy's ambassador to the DRC was killed in an ambush close to Virunga and in April 2019 an American tourist and her guide were kidnapped for ransom in Queen Elizabeth.
Lions have been killed in a number of previous suspected poisoning incidents in Queen Elizabeth.
In April 2018 eleven lions, including eight cubs, were found dead of suspected poisoning. In May 2010 five lions were killed in a similar incident.
Tourism is a top foreign exchange earner in Uganda, contributing almost 10 percent of GDP and 23 percent of total foreign exports, according to the UWA.
"UWA strongly condemns the illegal killing of wildlife because it does not only impact negatively on our tourism as a country, but also revenue generation which supports conservation and community work in our protected areas," Hangi said.
Some experts believe this could be down to anti-poaching activities having diminished in the country during the pandemic due to a loss of tourism revenue, while others say locals struggling to feed their families could be setting traps out of desperation.
UWA said tourism contributed almost 10 per cent of Uganda’s gross domestic product and 23 per cent of total foreign exports.
“Nature tourism has been contributing $1.6bn to the economy and also contributes to the wellbeing of communities surrounding the wildlife protected areas,” the agency said.
“Tourism revenue plays a critical role in improving the livelihoods of communities around the national parks.”
The critically endangered predators, which once roamed different parts of India, are set to be reintroduced from South Africa and Namibia. This has raised hopes of conserving grasslands in the country.
Zoo authorities in the southern city of Hyderabad shared samples with a government research laboratory on March 24 after the lions showed signs of respiratory distress.
The owner had shared a photo on the app, in which the lion can be seen sitting on the road and a dog playing nearby.
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