Why Elephants Are Recovering in Uganda as They Decline Overall
The country’s ambassador to the United States explains how Uganda has managed to grow its elephant population by 600 percent, though challenges remain.
Despite the widespread decline of elephants across Africa in recent years, one nation has reported a rising population.
Elephants in Uganda have increased by 600 percent, to more than 5,000 individuals, from a low of 700 to 800 in the 1980s, reports a survey in May by the Wildlife Conservation Society, the Great Elephant Census and the Uganda Wildlife Authority.
Elephants were once plentiful across the East African country, but rampant poaching fueled their decline. The Wildlife Conservation Society cited better protection across Uganda’s ten national parks as a major factor in their recovery.
Despite the increasing numbers, elephants in Uganda still face poaching pressure, particularly in Queen Elizabeth National Park, which now has 2,913 elephants, the report noted. And Uganda has continued to be a stopover for international smugglers, who may take advantage of local corruption.
A controversial court ruling returned three tons of ivory to traffickers in March 2014—a decision made after a judge bought the defendants’ argument that the ivory had been legally imported that may also embolden smugglers.
National Geographic spoke with ,Oliver Wonekha Uganda’s ambassador to the United States, about the ways elephants are recovering in the country.
A recent survey suggests that elephants are increasing in Uganda, while they’re decreasing across much of Africa. So what is your country doing differently?
In our recent past we had a lot of political turmoil, and during that time there was a lot of poaching. The wildlife really suffered.
The current government takes wildlife crime very seriously because wildlife is an important part of our tourism industry, which is now our biggest earner of foreign income. Wildlife trafficking is also a security issue, because terrorist groups use it to fund their operations.
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