OYAM/RUBIRIZI – In Queen Elizabeth National Park, the elephant trenches have been excavated on the boundary-stretching 4 kilometers separating the park from communities of Rubirizi and 03 kilometers from those of Kamdini sub-county in Oyam for Murchison Falls National park respectively.
These boundary trenches will deter large mammals such as elephants, buffaloes to raid the neighboring communities that mostly do subsistence farming. The increasing community densities have led to high competition with wildlife for land and resources despite the same areas being home to many large mammals like elephants.
Another wildlife hot spot that is currently under construction includes the 2.5-kilometer stretch being dug in Chepwor village in Kiryandongo district. With continuous movement of elephants in these areas, crop destruction has persistently become a challenge, which in the long run affects relationships with these communities whose crops have been destroyed.
The communities mostly depend on farming and therefore are left helpless when crops are destroyed prompting them to kill elephants and other wildlife in revenge.
The Chief Warden Murchison Falls Mr. Niwamanya Edison said that the digging of these trenches has potential benefits to both the communities and wildlife conservation. “The anticipated benefits and outputs include a reduction in elephant, buffalo and other mammal crop raiding. This will lead to a reduction in illegal cattle grazing in the protected areas, a reduction in elephant and human deaths associated to crop-raiding and improved park community relations,” he said.
Members of these communities have testified about the numerous benefits of the trenches. Patrick Olara a local community member in Karuma said that these trenches have helped in stopping animal movements into the community land.
“Ever since these trenches were put in place, we are no longer worried about our crops getting damaged. We have seen elephants return to the park once they find these trenches. We are glad that their movements have been controlled and can now farm in peace,” he said. Local communities demonstrated their enthusiasm towards the project by digging the first sections of the trench on a voluntary basis one day per week. In one wetland area, the laborers continued excavations despite the trench filling with water at a depth of only 1 meter.
Besides trenches, Uganda Wildlife Authority has put in a place a number of measures to address the human-wildlife conflict issues across national parks. A multiplicity of measures have been used that Mauritius thorn hedges, chili to deter elephants, bee hives, tea as buffer zone in Bwindi, wildlife scouts and vuvuzelas.
Electric fences have also been set up in some areas in Queen Elizabeth.