Building Capacity for Wildlife Research in Uganda

Across the Kidepo Valley a hunter glasses spiral horns through thick brush. The stalk is on for the elusive Grey Ghost of Africa. You are in the bush on a classic East Africa safari in the historic Karamoja region. This wilderness is one of the most remote, inaccessible and ecologically intact areas of Uganda, and the northern most range of the greater kudu.

This safari hunt could become a reality after future SCI Foundation supported research with the Karamoja Wildlife Conservation Partnership (KWCP) verifies a viable population of kudu in Uganda’s Kidepo Valley.

SCI Foundation is excited to announce this new partnership with the KWCP. Uganda, though not as well known, has an abundance of wildlife, a well-established national park system, and a relatively new hunting program. Hunting was reopened in 2001 by the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) as a response to increased poaching and widespread conversion of habitat to agriculture.

However, little to no data exists on the wildlife populations in the Kidepo Valley, limiting the UWA’s ability to make informed science-based management decisions. To build that capacity, SCI Foundation and the KWCP will work to provide the science needed for Uganda’s hunting industry and quota setting system.

The KWCP is aligned with SCI Foundation’s mission – dedicated to wildlife research, conservation and sustainable use in northern Uganda. With SCI Foundation’s grant, a biological research station will be established outside the Kidepo Valley National Park.

The facility will serve as base camp for two Land Rover vehicles to access the park and surrounding wildlife management areas. The station will be built on an existing structure within the Karamoja Safaris hunting concession. This new partnership and the resulting research station will fill data gaps for setting science-based quotas, starting with greater kudu.

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In the first year of operation, graduate students with the local Makerere University will conduct a baseline population survey of kudu, evaluate the species’ current status, identify potential threats, and develop a management plan to determine whether a hunting quota is scientifically sound.

Documentation of a viable kudu population will encourage the UWA to afford greater protection to wildlife areas located adjacent to the Kidepo Valley National Park. Uganda would also be home to the only kudu hunting in the region, as bordering Kenya and South Sudan prohibit hunting. This attraction could provide much needed income for Uganda’s young hunting industry and evolving wildlife agency.

The SCI Foundation sponsored research station will educate personnel and host academic students for years to come, creating the institutional capacity for long-term wildlife studies. With a fully operational station, research can be expanded.

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The KWCP also plans to conduct preliminary research on the area’s lion population, collect genetic samples of pygmy Nile crocodiles and conduct general reconnaissance work for future surveys of other species. The partnership hopes to build on this initial research, focusing their resources on collecting data for economically important species including buffalo, elephant, eland, giraffe, and huntable species of antelope such as hartebeest, waterbuck, bushbuck, reedbuck, and dik-dik.

Uganda’s hunting program was designed to help reduce human-wildlife conflict and allow people to benefit from wildlife utilization. Hunting currently benefits the UWA and local communities in the form of increased revenue for conservation and infrastructure development, an anti-poaching presence in the field, improved tolerance for wildlife, employment opportunities, and wild protein harvest.

Back in the Karamoja bush, the hunter has taken a kudu bull as part of the UWA’s newly set quota. The safari will provide meat for local villagers and jobs for anti-poaching game scouts, incentivizing conservation in Uganda’s Kidepo Valley.

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The Karamoja Wildlife Conservation Partnership will be launching a website with research updates and photos this winter. Stay tuned to the First for Wildlife blog for more information on the greater kudu survey and news from the first year of research.

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