Herds Build Up After Years of Poachers’ Slaughter
KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) _ While poachers have decimated wild animals throughout most of Africa, a crackdown on illegal hunters in Uganda has boosted herds of elephants in wildlife sanctuaries, the government said Wednesday.
The elephant population in Ruwenzori National Park has swelled from 450 three years ago to 700, Uganda National Parks director Eric Edroma told reporters. The reserve was home to 3,000 of the animals in the 1960s.
After Uganda’s independence from Britain in 1962, government troops, guerrillas, poachers and hungry villagers combined to slaughter thousands of pachyderms throughout the country, Edroma said.
Most were gunned down when former dictator Idi Amin ruled the east African nation from 1971 to 1979, mainly by soldiers with machine guns who smuggled the ivory to the Middle East and Asia.
By 1980, a year after Idi Amin was toppled in a military coup, only 150 elephants were roaming Ruwenzori park in western Uganda.
When President Yoweri Museveni seized power in 1986, he vowed to protect wildlife and mounted a nationwide sweep against poachers.
Today, apart from 450 elephants that remain within the 1,200-square-mile sanctuary, 250 migrants divide their time between Ruwenzori and the Virunga National Park in neighboring Zaire.
The elephant population throughout the continent has plummeted from 1.5 million in 1978 to as few as 400,000 because of widespread poaching, often with the connivance of politicians, bureaucrats and security chiefs.