New Lion and Carnivore Monitoring Project in Uganda

Guests at Volcanoes Safaris Kyambura Gorge Lodge can now participate in a new lion and large carnivore monitoring project in Uganda, launched by Volcanoes Safaris Partnership Trust (VSPT). Based in the Queen Elizabeth National Park, the project is in partnership with the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), and will establish an annual carnivore survey and shared research database.

The project will monitor the population of the country’s iconic tree-climbing lions, using the latest spatially explicit capture-recapture methods. These findings will indicate how lions are faring in the park over time, and give insights into particular individuals, their space use, and sex ratios. The VSPT wildlife monitoring team will work together wiith and support the work of other long-term conservation partners, including Dr Ludwig Siefert, head of the Uganda Carnivore Program (UCP).

Guests at Volcanoes Safaris Kyambura Gorge Lodge can get involved in this project during their stay, by collecting and submitting survey data during game drives. They will then receive regular updates on the progress of the survey and wildlife monitoring.

Evidence shows that lions in the park are under a state of stress with the population estimated to have declined by nearly 50% in under 5 years. Scientific monitoring of African lion populations is a fundamental first step in tracking the responses of conservation initiatives and developing a benchmark for future efforts. UWA staff and young Ugandans will be trained in scientific monitoring techniques. The project will also focus on community conservation education and livelihood development activities in local communities.

“We fully support this critical work surveying threatened species. As VSPT celebrates 15 years of active conservation in the Albertine Rift, we know that collaboration is key. We’re fortunate to have incredible support from the Uganda Wildlife Authority which for decades has sustained conservation work in these challenging environments,” shares Kevin James, Trustee of Volcanoes Safaris Partnership Trust.

Leading the project is Scientific Director, Dr Aleksander Braczkowski, while the field team is led by Bosco Atukwatse and Orin Cornille, two young scientists who have undertaken additional surveys with UWA in Murchison, Kidepo, and Toro Semliki. The 2023 survey will collect data on African lions, leopards, and spotted hyenas over a 3-month period using remote camera traps and a network of field teams searching for lions using a search encounter technique.

Dr Braczkowski shares, “It is exciting to have a strong, science-based programme for lion monitoring in Queen Elizabeth National Park which has the support of the Uganda Wildlife Authority. Our work focuses on educating the next generation of conservationists. We have over eight Uganda lion survey scouts gathering data. Our work is a tangible example of Uganda's science capacity building in action. The monitoring of large carnivores in Uganda is essential for future generations and there is no better way to do this than through a collaborative programme led by Ugandan researchers, rangers, scientists, and students”.

This latest initiative is one of many long-term, self-sustaining projects in Uganda and Rwanda supported and funded by VSPT. Other projects include the Bwindi Bar which trains local disadvantaged youths in hospitality; the Gahinga Batwa Village, home to one of the oldest surviving indigenous people in the Central African Forest, and the Kyambura Gorge Eco-tourism Project, launched to safeguard the gorge ecosystem.

The Volcanoes Safaris Partnership Trust (VSPT) is funded through private donations, as well as a $50 per person per night community fee for guests staying at any of Volcanoes Safaris’ five lodges. More details on their projects can be found here.

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Thursday, November 16, 2023