Gossip| The Northern Link UG | The Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife, and Antiquates is considering applying the full force of the law to save the crested crane from extinction.
George Owoyesigire, the acting commissioner for wildlife conservation in the Ministry of Tourism is concerned about the rate at which the country’s precious emblem is being killed and losing its natural habitats, saying this necessitates tight enforcement of the highly punitive law against the offenders.
He was speaking during the National World Wildlife day celebrations held at Kaikolongo playground in Lwengo district where conservationists also conducted a public cranes festival to promote their conservation.
Owoyesigire indicates that the population of crested cranes in Uganda has drastically been decreasing hence risking the country’s heritage and one of its tourism attractions.
He revealed that the country has lost 80 percent of its crested cranes population of at least 35,000 birds based on the 1995 census in the last 26 years, making it one of the most endangered wild birds species in the country.
Owoyesigire cited circumstantial displacements of the crested cranes through wetland degradation and poisoning by farmers are the key drivers for their elimination.
He says that the ministry has considered invoking the new Uganda Wildlife Act 2019, which gives a life sentence and a fine of Shillings 200 million for killing a crested crane as one of the deterrence to the offenders that target the birds.
Tom Butime, the Minister in charge of Tourism, Wildlife instructed local authorities to stop any further encroachment on wetlands, which are known breeding areas for the crested cranes as well as restore those that have already been destroyed.
He says in addition to carrying out sensitization campaigns for the public to appreciate the significance of the crested crane, the ministry will also lead law enforcement towards the protection of wetlands for the good of wildlife and humans.
Butime adds that to complement the law, the ministry with different partners have developed the Grey Crane Action plan as an enabling document towards stopping threats to the cranes.
Godfrey Mutemba, the Lwengo District Natural Resources Officer reveals that their survey established that a total of 108 crested cranes were poisoned to death in the last planting season between June and November last year in their area alone.
He however indicates that they already engaging the locals by grouping them into community and schools conservation clubs that are helping to protect the birds, which he says are harmless to humans.