Conservation of Elephants in Southern Murchison Falls Conservation Area, Uganda

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1 Progress Report to International Elephant Foundation May 2014 Conservation of Elephants in Southern Murchison Falls Conservation Area, Uganda A Partnership between the Uganda Conservation Foundation and Uganda Wildlife Authority conservation through action

2 Brief summary Poaching in MFCA has been extreme and includes heavily armed gangs targeting elephants and large scale commercial gain, as well as the high volume of indiscriminate bush meat poaching using snares and traps. The poachers have taken advantage of the limited resources and capacity of Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) to enforce the law. Alongside UWA, UCF developed a strategy to regain control in key areas of Murchison Falls Conservation Area (MFCA) to counter poaching. The conservation of elephants in southern MFCA project aims at: Establish control the Bulaya River Region in south eastern MFCA. Establish intelligence led law enforcement in southern MFCA Better understand and manage the southern MFCA elephant population.

3 Location of Bulaya RP in Murchison Falls Conservation Area Mupina RP Bulaya RP

4 Bulaya ranger post UCF completed the construction and installation of Bulaya and Mupina Ranger Posts in southern MFCA. Both ranger posts have been made from two converted shipping containers placed 5meters from each other and roofed with iron sheets. The containers were acquired from Ortec Ltd from their work base station in Hoima and transported to MFCA. The container base construction and container installation was done by Keltron Ltd, a reputable fabrication company in Uganda. The two ranger posts are partitioned to accommodate up to 8 rangers.

5 Bulaya ranger post operational Four rangers were deployed at Bulaya RP permanently and since then (January 2014) patrols have been conducted and poaching items recovered. Conservation Area Manager, MFCA Tom Okello says, it is the first time UWA is having robust operations in the southern of MFCA. So far 28 patrols were conducted (8 extended, 6 ambushes and 14 round) which led to a large scale sweep of the existing snares and metal traps resulting in collection of 103 snares and 12 metal traps. Above is a warthog killed by metal trap in Bulaya area, southern MFCA.

6 Destroying poacher camps in southern MFCA 20 poacher camps have been destroyed in southern MF since January 2014 when permanent rangers were stationed at Bulaya and Mupina ranger posts.

7 Welcome to WILD LEO Knowing that most protected areas suffer from a lack of manpower and capacity to implement conservation programs, UCF supported WILD LEO project in MFCA to improve the capacity building of UWA law enforcement rangers. A select team of rangers received Wildlife Intelligence and Leadership Development (WILD) training that has been specially designed for Law Enforcement Officers (LEOs). The main goals of WILD LEO project are: To provide ranger commanders with precise information about patrol coverage and the location of illegal activity. To provide prosecutors with better courtroom evidence to increase the likelihood that poachers and other criminals will be convicted. To collect photographic evidence that better describes the nature of criminal activity inside Uganda s protected areas.

8 WILD LEO WILD LEO training was conducted by Dr. Andrew Lemieux, an American criminologist teaching at Netherlands Institute for the Study of Crime and Law Enforcement. The WILD LEO uses advanced intelligence gathering and analysis techniques to study and prevent criminal activity in Uganda s protected Areas using hybrid geo-location cameras with a GPS unit. This gives UWA law enforcement commanders added information for making informed deployment decisions. In essence, the project encourages intelligence-led patrolling, whereby analysis of: monthly patrol coverage, wildlife animals distribution data, and illegal activity observations are used to direct patrols. Additionally, the project provides management with up-to-date and visual information about the problems inside a protected area.

9 Example of WILD LEO Data Output from GPS Camera Geo-Location cameras record when and where photographs were taken; this is used to map the distribution of wildlife animals, illegals activities and poachers observed by ranger patrols. When suspects are arrested, the geotagged photos, and video statements recorded on the camera, provide prosecutors with robust evidence and increase the likelihood of conviction. On a monthly and quarterly basis, intelligence reports showing the location of illegal activity, such as the location of poacher camps, are shared with UWA managers to help guide deployments.

10 WILD LEO Equipment and training MFCA WILD LEO trained rangers Crime analysts taking lessons WILD LEO lessons Patrick of UCF handing over Geo-location cameras to warden LE, MFCA

11 WILD LEO training The photos of illegal activity and GPS logs of patrol movements are used by ranger commanders to make deployment decisions and prosecution teams as evidence in court. 50 rangers have been trained in the use of hybrid geo-location cameras. Among, were two crime analysts and two prosecutors. The training were conducted at Mubako, Paraa and Karuma ranger posts in MFCA. 17 geo-location cameras plus 5 normal cameras were provided to MFCA by UCF plus one desk top computer.

12 Elephants in South MFCA Over the past 2 years, MIKE aerial surveys have not seen elephants in the south MFCA. However, different groups of people have sighted elephants in the south MFCA. In December 2013, a herd of elephants were sighted in Sambiya river area and they remained near the top of the falls until mid-january, Another group of six bull elephants came from Rabongo forest up to Mubako UWA HQ in February 2014 and remained in the area up to the end of March. In charge of Rabongo forest ranger post confirmed to us that a group of about 30 elephants have been roaming the area since February. In the very south of MFCA, a bond group has been recorded well outside the park. It is thought this group may be the group translocated from the Bulemezi community area 80 km south of Murchison Falls National park in 1995, but now largely resident in MFCA and always traverse Rabongo forest area and Budongo forest.

13 Elephants in South MFCA Rangers based at Karuma mentioned that they usually encounter two herds of elephants in the range of 20 and 30 during December-March season. February this year a group of 5 bulls from the herd crossed from Karuma wildlife reserve moved 35 km deep inside the community area raiding the crops. Overall it is already clear that the once reclusive population is far more widely distributed than thought suggesting that the assumed semipermanent aggregations that they were once in has broken up into distinct groups. A question that remains is whether they will follow movement patterns once well described in the 1970s. Ranger training in elephant data collection was done at Mubako and data collecting sheets on south MFCA elephant habitat and seasonal distribution has been distributed to ranger posts of Mubako, Mupina, Bulaya, Rabongo, Karuma and Wairingo. The data collection sheet consists: date, area, site coordinates, evidence of elephants, number, males, females (young, old) and other remarks.

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