The Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) has started a drive to cut down all exotic trees that have become invasive [tending to spread very quickly and undesirably or harmfully], thereby affecting the ecosystem in national parks.
The drive that started last week at Semuliki National Park in Bundibugyo District, is also aimed at restoring the animal habitats.
“Most animals that had strayed from the parks because of these invasive plants have come back after restoration of some habitats, especially in Queen Elizabeth National Park,” Mr Bashir Hangi, the UWA spokesman, said on Tuesday.
Tourism is one of the top revenue contributors to the economy, fetching the country $1.45b (about Shs5.3 trillion) last financial year.
Mr Nelson Guma, the chief warden of Kibale Conservation Area (that covers two game parks and two game reserves), said the exotic trees that were planted in the park in the 1970s, do not contribute so much in terms of providing needs of the wild animals, the reason UWA is cutting them down and planting indigenous trees to improve the quality of habitats for animals, providing cover and food for animals.
“UWA has contracted a firm to remove the huge exotic trees in the parks, and thereafter, we shall engage local communities to undertake the removing of young exotic trees,” Mr Guma added.
He further said the campaign will create job opportunities to the local communities and also provide them minor forest produce like poles and firewood.
“Most of these plants have repulsive characters. They were planted along the roads in the parks but they have now spread all over the park,” explained Mr Guma.
Last year, UWA launched a Shs500m multi-pronged pilot project to fight Invasive Alien Species (IAS) that are threatening to take over Queen Elizabeth and Lake Mburo parks.
About 1,256sq km of Queen Elizabeth National Park is under the IAS, leaving only 722sq km of unaffected area for animals. The park measures 1,978 sq km.
Lake Mburo is worse, with only 39sq Km out of 260sq km unaffected by the invasive species.
Why do away with exotic plants. Mr Nelson Guma, the chief warden of Kibale Conservation Area, says Invasive Alien Species (IAS) are a threat to birds and mammals.
He adds that they are a threat to tourism and are one of the main causes of human-wildlife conflict. He further said IAS eat up the pasture for wild animals, forcing the wildlife to community lands.
They also close up areas for game viewing, making it difficult for tourists to see the animals.