Weak laws, poaching and wildlife trafficking have resulted in lion populations plummeting by 33 per cent in the last ten years in Uganda’s game reserves.

A census in the Queen Elizabeth, Murchison Falls and Kidepo national parks published by The Observer in Uganda, reported that in the three reserves, the number of lions has fallen from 600 to 400. The Murchison Falls reserve showed the largest decline, there the number of lions fell from 320 to 130.

Wildlife Conservation Society’s executive director, Simon Nandipo, says this is because of a weak legal framework against poaching and wildlife trafficking and human activities which include hunting with wheel traps and wire snares.

Nandipo says the remaining lion population is finding it harder to catch prey because the number of smaller wild animals is also falling. This is because of poaching, disease, habitat loss, killing by local communities for cultural and medicinal purposes, and often as an attempt to address livestock loss by lion predation.

He said that fewer lions has a serious negative impact on the tourism industry. In Queen Elizabeth National Park, each lion generates revenue of around $13,500 ($10 000.00) to the national economy annually. The assessment was based on the premise that tourists are willing to remain in the area longer to see lions.

Nandipo explained that wildlife smuggling is a serious problem. Elephant ivory, animal skins, hippo teeth and pangolin scales are all widely trafficked, by roads across porous borders, via the Entebbe International Airport and private landing strips around the country.