“Leopard Village”: Community Ecotourism & Resource Center in Muhokya

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Updates from the Field

Friday
Mar312017

Hyena Footage in Kasenyi

This is an excellent video, taken by Kasenyi Safari Camp in our core research area, showing spotted hyena behavior not everyone gets the chance to see: a hyena just after it hunted a kob. The common perception is that hyenas are only scavengers. In fact, they are skilled hunters as well. Many studies have found spotted hyenas actually hunt the majority of what they eat.

Hyenas face the same threats as lions, including conflict with humans, especially after livestock depredation, loss of habitat, decrease in their natural prey base, and poaching for use in traditional medicine and witchcraft. So when we work with local communities, we include solutions to address hyena conservation challenges as well.

Wednesday
Mar292017

Lioness, Juma, poached

We are sad to tell you that lioness Juma is dead after becoming a victim of poaching for traditional local medicine.

We had been consistently getting her radio collar’s signal from near the shores of Lake Edward in the area of Katwe village. There is an abandoned camp nearby that was a favorite hunting area of Juma’s, as prey would pass by to drink at the lake. We didn’t want to disturb her, or alert people to her presence, as we thought perhaps she might be pregnant or already nursing young cubs. So we monitored her from quite a distance. She had the habit of staying close to human habitation when she raised cubs in the past.

We became increasingly worried, however, when there was no change at all in the location of the signal. So one evening we decided to track her closely and found the signal was coming from a fisherman’s hut.

With the help of village leaders and law enforcement, we entered the hut and found Juma’s collar next to a bottle of melted lion fat, which is traditionally used to treat rheumatism. We also found hippo ivory buried in the corner of the hut.

 

We accompanied local community leaders, Katwe police and the Lake Edward Marine Police to arrest the man, who was out fishing on the lake. He was convicted on several counts and is now serving a prison sentence of two years.

This is a sad loss, and just one of the many threats that Uganda's predators face on a daily basis. We have had several human-carnivore conflicts in this part of Katwe – a village of more 10,000 inhabitants located within park boundaries – due to depredation of livestock. However, the cattle owners from this village have always been supportive of our community-based conservation efforts and had never poisoned any large carnivores.

So, it’s particularly distressing that Juma would become a victim of poaching for traditional local medicine that would have brought in less than US$10 to the fisherman. Although we know that lions were historically used for traditional medicine, this is the first time one of our research lions has died as a result of it.

We had been tracking Juma for almost 6 years, and she was ~10 years old at the time of her death. Her territory ranged from Mweya peninsula, through the area between the park’s Katunguru and Main gates, past Katwe and the crater lakes, to Pelican Point and the Nyamugasani River.

Juma was one of several single mother lionesses in this section of the park, and we learned a lot about their often-solitary lives through our years of researching her. We will miss her.

Poaching and the illegal trafficking of wildlife are often symptoms of poverty and high unemployment, which is why community-based conservation and sustainable development programs are so critical to this region. The loss of Juma is difficult, but we will continue our efforts in her memory.

Monday
Mar062017

New Video Footage of Lena's Pride

Here's some great video footage of Lena, Bridget and their offspring feeding on the remains of a waterbuck, courtesy of Kasenyi Safari Camp. We love to see other peoples’ photos of the lions we are working so hard to conserve, and love it even more when they appreciate and want to conserve the lions as much as we do.

We're especially thrilled about how well Lena and her maternal group are doing. We'll be monitoring them a lot this year to help ensure their safety!

Saturday
Feb182017

UCP featured in National Geographic

 

Here's a follow-up feature to NatGeo's 2015 Q&A, Saving Uganda's Lions Through Community Participation. Written by African wildlife conservation journalist and newest member to the UCP team, Michael Schwartz, learn more about what it takes to protect lions and other predators of Queen Elizabeth National Park. See link below:

Saving Ugandan Lions One Radio Collar at a Time

Friday
Dec162016

Celebrating Uganda's First Lion Day!

 

 

On December 14th, we celebrated local culture and the African Lion at Uganda’s first ever Lion Day. It was a festive afternoon filled with fun activities, spectacular performances, and learning about lions and other wildlife. We were so happy to have such strong participation by so many villagers and our special partners.

 

Special thanks goes out to:

The Oakland Zoo and the Uganda Wildlife Authority for hosting it with us.

We have so many people to thank for this great day!

Uganda Wildlife Authority QECA CAM Edward Asalu, and QECA Tourism Warden Katana Dickson for their support of our work and for their commitment to conserving Uganda’s wildlife

Oakland Zoo and conservation director Amy Gotliffe and the ecotour delegates for making everything so special that day; Oakland Zoo conservation department staff Carol Moen Wing and Shelby McCoy who worked so hard to put this together from California; and ZooCamp Director Liz Low for sending over t-shirts and lots of other goodies for us to pass out that day. Lion Day wouldn’t have happened with you!

Tourism Police Commander Muyondo Godwin and his team

Friends of Queen Chairman Sander Kesseler and all of our other Friends of Queen colleagues who helped us celebrate the day, and who are as committed to conservation as we are!

Local leaders:

LC3 of Muhokya subcounty Kasoke Ernest 
LC1 of Muhokya Trading Center Bigemere Abdulatif
LC1 of Kahendero Juma Alube
Local Police Chief Kisembo Jellies

The livestock owners from Hamukungu and Nyakatonzi who work with us daily on human-carnivore conflict and who came to celebrate with us

Our Community Scouts Kenneth Mugyenyi and Robert Nkome-Mugabe. 

Ernest and The Leopard Village Cubs for all their hard work to prepare the site to host Lion Day (and clean up the aftermath!). Muhokya Catholic Church for lending the use of their land for our Leopard Village community tourism site.

Master Kalenzi and his performance troupe, who make every event they perform at so festive

The Leopard Village Acrobats and especially their mentors Katarina and Salim, who have been so committed to training local youth

Local schools:

Kahendero Primary School 
Hamukungu Primary School
Hamukungu Secondary School

Our friends from Kasenyi Safari Camp, Ihamba Lakeside Safari Lodge, Little Elephant Camp, Marafiki Safari Lodge, and the other lodges and tour operators who partner with us in conservation

All the local residents who came out to celebrate the day with us and who live alongside lions and other wildlife every day.

Thank you again to everyone who made this day so special! See you next year!

 

 

Monday
Oct172016

Taking Local Students to See Uganda's Wildlife!

On October 15th, we took a group of 36 students and three teachers from Hamukungu village primary and secondary schools into Queen Elizabeth National Park for a game drive. Close to 90 percent of these students had never been on a game drive into the park, even though the village in which they reside is located within park boundaries.

They saw lots of wildlife on the drive, including lion, elephant, buffalo, and kob. We also took them on a boat ride on the beautiful Kazinga Channel. The students and their families regularly suffer livestock and crop losses from the park’s wildlife such as lions and elephants. So, it’s critically important for these children to be able to see wildlife under less threatening circumstances.

Thank you so much to the Disney Conservation Fund for providing the funding for this special day!

Wednesday
Sep212016

Treating Lin the Lioness

Lin is the young adult daughter of Lena. In September, our friend Philip, owner of Kasenyi Safari Camp, alerted us to a lioness in very poor condition.

We investigated and observed she had been severely injured, likely by a warthog. After consulting with UWA, we darted her, treated her, and put a radio collar on her. For the next several weeks, we monitored her health closely and provided further treatment.

We're happy to announce that Lin is fully recovered. She has re-joined her pride and is quite active and we are continuing to monitor her.

Tuesday
Aug302016

Back Home!

The old coalition of Omukama, Papa, and Rudi were sighted in the Ishasha area! This is where they were born and where they lived before venturing to the northern sector of Queen Elizabeth National Park as young adults in 2009.
We had not seen them for several weeks, even after spending significant time searching throughout their territory. This was highly unusual in seven years of monitoring them. So, to know they simply migrated back to Ishasha after so many years in the north is a big relief.
Migration is crucial for genetic diversity. However, with human encroachment into wild areas increasing and wildlife corridors disappearing as a result, it is sadly becoming less possible - all over the world, not just in Uganda.
These three would have had to avoid conflict with humans in several areas on their journey to the north 7 years ago and then again as they headed back south recently. That’s in addition to the conflict they avoided in the north for the last seven years. Such marvelous examples of animals who have learned to adapt and survive in a human dominated landscape.
Ishasha is not currently in our core study area as it is too far away for us to travel to regularly. We will miss seeing Omukama, Papa, and Rudi on a frequent basis. They are a truly amazing coalition. But who knows – perhaps they will venture back north one day. We will be on the look-out for them!
Thanks so very much to our friend Clori Alves of KANANGA for alerting us to this and for sending the photos!

 

Wednesday
Aug102016

Changing of the Guard

We suspect that the young coalition of Sankara and Brothers have now fully taken over the territory of the old coalition of Papa, Rudi, and Omukama.

We snapped a nice photo of the three of them, who were napping in the core Kasenyi area of Queen Elizabeth National Park. Unfortunately, they have also recently been on the other side of the park, preying on cattle near the village of Nyoktonzi. This is the same area where lion Cabral died.

We have not seen Papa, Rudi, and Omukama for a few weeks now, nor even been able to catch a signal from any of their radio collars. This is not typical when it comes to the coalition. However, there are several areas of the park that our vehicle can’t reach due to the terrain. These are often the same areas where it’s difficult to pick up radio collar signals, too. We have no reason to believe right now that anything has happened to them as a result of conflict with humans. However, since the young three are now regularly in the core areas of the park, this likely means the older three are on the outer edges, where carnivores frequently come into contact with humans and their cattle. 

We will continue to keep watch for them and continue our work with the villages.

Wednesday
Jul272016

Saying Goodbye to Cabral

 

We regret to inform everyone of the unfortunate death of Cabral. We suspect he was killed by a cattle owner from Nyoktonzi and the Nyamugasani River area.

This is one of the worst areas of the park for carnivores. Many have been poisoned here over the last several years – including lioness Fiona and her two cubs, male lion Nubi, and lioness Aziya and her entire pride. Cattle routinely cross the Nyamugasani River and enter the park to graze illegally. This is where they come into contact with lions, who often prey on the cattle. Over time, some of the lions learn to follow the cattle back into the community land and continue attacking them there.

We know Cabral was attacking cattle both on park land and on the community side. While we don’t currently have the funding to establish a formal community program in Nyoktonzi, we had been meeting more frequently with the livestock owners after several positive meetings with community leaders late last year.

We became increasingly worried about Cabral after repeatedly getting his radio collar’s signal from the community side of the river without a change in location. After a few days with no change, we crossed the swollen river on foot and went into a steep ravine where the signal was coming from.

We eventually tracked the radio signal to a spot along the river. Our senior research assistant James dug into the sand on the riverbank until he reached the collar (see photo). We never discovered Cabral’s remains, but his radio collar was neatly cut - clearly by a person – and deliberately buried in the sand.

Cabral was quite a character. We knew him from when he was a cub and formally monitored him for ~3.5 years. Cabral was ~6 years old at the time of his death and ranged on his own throughout northwest Queen Elizabeth. He would occasionally meet up with a female, and we observed him mating with lioness Juma last year.

If any of you have stayed on the Mweya peninsula, you likely heard his loud vocalizations at night and may have even caught site of him in the evenings. During the day, he could be shy. And when the coalition of Papa, Rudi and Omukama came to his side of the park, he would hide and be completely silent in order to avoid confrontation.

We learned a lot about the life of solo, nomadic male lions from monitoring Cabral. We miss him!