Ntoroko- Police in Ntoroko District are holding three men over grazing cattle in Tooro Semliki Wildlife Reserve. The men were detained on Thursday and their more than 600 cattle impounded.
All protected areas are a reserve of wildlife (fauna and flora) and no domestic animal should be grazed there, according to the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) Act, 2000.
Land scarcity is intense in the area, leading to conflicts between game wardens and cattle keepers.
“There is land pressure in Ntoroko District, people, mainly the Batuku, culturally hold thousands of cows for pride and don’t have enough land to graze them and the water bodies; Lake Albert and River Semliki, are more than 30kms away from Rwebisengo and Butungama so they end up entering the reserve for pasture and water at River Wasa and its tributaries,” Mr Deusdedit Twinomugisha, the assistant warden community conservation at Tooro Semliki Wildlife Reserve, said.
One of the arrested men, for instance, is said to have about 20,000 cows but doesn’t have sufficient land to graze them.
An official of the wildlife reserve force said the impounded cows will be kept in a protected kraal inside the reserve until the court process is finalised.
Waiting on court
The officer in-charge of criminal investigations in Ntoroko District, Mr Paul Muhindo, said the suspects are being held until March 15, when court will sit. Court in Ntoroko sits only on Fridays and yesterday was a public holiday.
Mr Muhindo said the suspects are being held over illegal entry into a protected area, unlawful introduction of domestic animals into the protected area, disturbance of wildlife plants and unlawful possession of dangerous devices capable of injuring or disturbing wild animals.
Mr Twinomugisha said the cattle keepers have killed all the lions in the reserve because they eat their cows.
“Lions are the key attraction to tourists in the park, tourists don’t want to see domestic animals in the park, they pay a lot of money to see wild animals, boat cruise and bird watching,” he said.
Mr Twinomugisha said the reserve receives between 500 and 700 tourists each year.
He added that grazing cows in the reserve has more negative impact such as transmission of diseases to the wildlife and vice versa.