Uganda's legal hunting slammed
Kampala - Outraged conservationists said on Wednesday that Uganda had neither enough game nor adequate control mechanisms to re-introduce sport hunting on animals such as elephant and buffalo.
Animal and environmental protection groups were angered by the Uganda Wildlife Authority's (UWA) decision to sell shooting licences in a bid to boost tourism revenue.
"I do not believe that Uganda has enough game animals to sustain sport hunting," Samuel Maina, of Nairobi-based WildlifeDirect, told AFP.
UWA spokesperson Lillian Nsubuga said population levels had recovered from years of war in some areas and argued that ending the decades-old ban would contain crop-crunching elephants and buffalos while creating jobs.
'Designated hunting areas'
Maina voiced doubts that the 90% loss of the large mammal population during the unstable 70s and 80s had been reversed.
"Sport hunting is thus likely to be unsustainable in the designated hunting areas and there is a likelihood that to sustain this lucrative sector, Uganda will have to extend hunting into protected areas," he said.
Achilles Byaruhanga of Nature Uganda, a Kampala-based advocacy group, also judged the initiative to be dangerous because it is impossible to know the real strength of big game populations.
"I would want to ask UWA: Where is your data and your information coming from? Just because some animals have moved out of a wildlife reserve doesn't mean their numbers are strong enough for sport hunting," he told AFP.
UWA chief Moses Mapesa said that big game hunting was happening already and that the plan was simply for Uganda to benefit from it.
'Gorillas the main attraction'
"In the absence of controlled hunting we have had a loss of animals and a loss of potential revenue," he said.
But Byaruhanga argued that the re-introduction of legal hunting was unlikely to stop illegal hunting by needy local communities or create enough guide jobs to provide a viable alternative.
Maina also warned that Uganda had not proven it had the capacity to control the hunting effectively.
"Hunting-law enforcement is going to be difficult when new hunting blocks are opened. I doubt UWA has enough personnel and machinery to prevent abuse of the hunting licenses and concessions," he said.
Maina also argued that sport hunting was incompatible with the east African country's current attempts to enhance its international image as a destination for ecotourism, with gorillas the main attraction.
"Ecotourism and sport hunting are more or less mutually exclusive. Ecotourists do not want to go to places where wildlife is being killed," he told AFP.
"The growth of sport hunting tourism will give Uganda a bad name as an ecotourism destination and is thus likely to reduce earnings from ecotourism including gorilla tracking," he added.