By Patrick Okino, Rupiny/NECJOGHA
Nwoya, Uganda – In a bid to reintroduce giraffes in Pian Upe wildlife reserve, the Uganda Willife Authority (UWA) in partnership with the Giraffe Conservation Foundation is translocating 15 giraffes from Murchison Falls National Park.
Pian Upe wildlife reserve is located in Karamoja region. It has a variety of animals such as the zebra,cheetah,roan,antelope and different kinds of birds.
The Giraffe Conservation Foundation funded the translocation process by offering $37000 (U shs 137m). The giraffes are being captured and transported by UWA rangers, veterinary staff, university students and staff of the giraffe conservation foundation.
Dr. Patrick Atimnedi, the senior manager in charge of veterinary services at the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) said the 15 giraffes being relocated include 10 females.
“We are moving giraffes to Pian Upe in two phases: in the first phase, we are translocating 15 and the second phase next year, we shall move 25 giraffes,” he said.
Atimnedi said they are only translocating young giraffes so that they can reproduce and boost the giraffe population in Pian Upe.
He explained that mature bulls and females cannot multiply quickly nor can they withstand being moved over long distances.
“Translocation helps to introduce and reintroduce species into new and former habitats with the aim of diversifying species in a locality and enhancing their survival rate,” Atimnedi said.
He said the major threats to giraffes include diseases, such as rinderpest,predators like lions and cheetahs, as well as human factors, like armed conflict,trophy hunting and poaching for meat.
Atimnedi said such incidents led to the local extinction of the giraffe in Pian Upe by 1996.
He said the current populations of giraffes are as follows: 49 in Kidepo Valley National Park, 24 in Lake Mburo National Park and 1500 in Murchison Falls National Park.
Atimnedi said: “in 2015, we translocated 15 giraffes from Murchison falls to Lake Mburo National Park. In 2016, we translocated 19; in 2017, we translocated 17 to southern bank of Murchison falls and, in 2018, we translocated 14 giraffes to Kidepo valley national park.”
UWA communications officer Simplicious Gessa said the growing tourism in Karamoja region is among the key reasons for UWA’S decision to reintroduce giraffes in thegame reserve.
“Diversifying animal species in Pian Upe will increase revenue sharing and other indirect economic benefits. The area is already receiving over sh 160mfrom visitors,” he said.
Gessa said they are reintroducing giraffes in Pian Upe, which became extinct 20 years ago, as a result of increasing human population and armed conflict to ensure the long-term survival of the species to popularize them as part of the country’s national heritage.
He added: “we raised awareness among communities on the need of conserving the giraffes, to enable the Matheniko ethnic group, which has a cultural attachment to the giraffe, fully participate in its conservation for tourism, ecological and economic benefits.”
Gessa said introducing giraffes in Pian Upe will increase economic prospects for the local communities as they provide food, crafts and accommodation to tourists.
He appealed to communities not to kill the giraffes again, cautioning that the practice is illegal.