Project - Murchison Falls Conservation

Murchison Falls Conservation Area

Over fifty years ago Murchison Falls had the most elephants per square kilometer in Africa. After decades of civil war and uncontrolled poaching, a mere 500 elephants remained. Now with peace in Uganda, animal populations can rebound as long as wildlife receive protection against the thousands of snares and leg-hold traps set annually as well as from the gangs of armed poachers. Fifteen land and water-based ranger stations have been constructed and more are being planned. The increased ranger presence is reducing poaching by patrolling park lands, policing the bushmeat and ivory trafficking trade, and removing snares and traps. Marine ranger stations allow rangers to deploy anywhere along the shore to better stop illegal activity. In addition, the rangers are being equipped with radios for communication, and geolocation cameras to document patrols to produce evidence for use in the prosecution of poachers and to manage poaching data and trends.

In partnership with UWA and UCF there has been remarkable successful leading to increasing populations of elephants, lion, giraffe, pangolin and more. But the global COVID pandemic and the subsequent lockdown caused multiple setbacks including the complete loss of income from tourism which funds most of the conservation efforts, resulting in a large reduction in the ranger force while the influx of people returning to family farms due to loss of jobs in the cities contributed to an increase in poaching for income. Fortunately, prior to the pandemic, UCF with IEF support began the Scout program which invests in youth members in local communities. The Scout program nurtures and trains local youth for careers in conservation and wildlife protection. Scouts also play important roles in securing the protection of MFNP while also educating their families and communities to help deter additional poaching and wildlife crime activities.

Lack of employment leads to poaching, so UCF sponsored 100 youth to attend the local vocational community college and provided training as apprentices. Through this mentoring program, young people who were headed for a life of crime and poverty have learned how to behave professionally, developed skills, and have become highly employable with multiple career choices. About half of the youth demonstrated interest in becoming rangers in the future. The graduates who expressed the most interest and passion for protecting wildlife were recruited to apply to the Scouts Program and 25 young people who want to eventually become rangers were chosen. These 25 were chosen because they had come to know various rangers, had flourished by being treated honorably and respectfully by the rangers and had develop deep friendships with peers and keen interest in being a ranger as a career. This grant will sponsor another 25 youths to be trained as rangers.