The park area also included 10 communities (reserves) with a population of over 12000 people who up to now continue to live within the areas around the national park but these say they have not benefitted from the park.
Hamukungu and Nsaazi villages are some of the 10 reserves within the park but locals cry foul over the way they are treated by Uganda Wildlife Authority and one of the locals lamented;
“We have no problem living with these animals (from the park) but the problem is that when they terrorize our own domestic animals and we report to UWA, we get no help,” says 74-year-old Samson Wamala, a cattle keeper in Hamukungu.
“We were made prisoners in our own area despite being here way back before even the park was gazetted,” Emmanuel Kyalimpa, the LC2 chairman says. He also adds that the relationship between UWA officials and locals is at its worst because they see each other as enemies.
The locals say unlike in other areas where the residents are allowed intervals especially in drought to access the park for water and pastures, it is not the same with Queen Elizabeth National Park UWA officials.
“At least in the dry season they should allow us access to some corridors in the national park for water and pastures,” Emmanuel Ahimbisibwe said.
Just like animals be, they cross from the park to the community or vice versa but then the locals complain of being brutalized by the UWA officials if their animals crossed into the park.
The other complaint from the locals is about segregation in terms of employment. They say when it comes to recruitment of game rangers and other casual workers in the park they are not considered.
The other complaint is about compensation. Locals complain that when their animals and crops are eaten by the wild animals they are not compensated by the UWA officials.
The park gets revenue from Uganda wildlife safari tourists but locals complain of not benefiting from these revenues.
What Uganda Wildlife Authority had to say
The Uganda Wildlife Authority Executive Director Sam Mwandha said he would look into the complaints by the locals.
“The revenue money is coming to parishes but for the last one year, we have not shared revenue with them but there is shs2 billion we are soon sharing with them,” Mwandha said.
On being harsh to the locals during arrest, Mwandha said “that information had not yet got to him” but noted he would investigate it.
“As far as I know if somebody is poacher or entering the park illegally, we arrest them and take them to court. It’s true we have neighbors and we will work together in ensuring the arrests don’t continue. We need to ensure the neighbors appreciate the need to protect wildlife as we work together,” Mwandha said.
He added that his men will be asked to act humanely.
On employment, the UWA boss said during last year’s recruitment for rangers, they only advertised in the neighboring districts to ensure that those near the parks are recruited.
“We also focus on locals for people recruited to do casual labor.” He also stated
On the issue of compensation, Mwandha said there is no law that allows compensation but noted that UWA does it for compassion.
What the locals can do to better their stay and benefit from the park
There many attractions in Queen Elizabeth National Park and therefore tourists will always come in. Therefore, the locals should engage in making crafts and directly earn from the tourists.
When job opportunities are put up, locals should to their best apply and ensure they are not left out.
Just like they did, locals should speak out and then action can be taken by the responsible individuals.
Queen Elizabeth National Park is one of the great safari destinations whether on an extended Uganda safari or on our popular 4 Days Wildlife Safari in Uganda to Queen Elizabeth National Park in search of the tree climbing lions. In East Africa, this is the popular spot for tree climbing lions though of recent seen rarely at Murchison Falls National Parks and on Tanzania wildlife safaris especially to Serengeti National Park and previously Tarangire National Park.
The locals are a key to the development of the park and therefore they should be helped by authorities to live in harmony with wildlife through community responsible tourism.