A letter issued by Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) Executive Director Moses Mapesa caused a bit of confusion and lots of angst among Uganda operators and hunters last month. The letter sent to all Uganda operators announced a temporary suspension of sporthunting “with immediate effect save for any clients who may already be in Uganda and on safari.” The Hunting Report received a copy of the letter and I immediately contacted several operators working in different regions of Uganda. They all confirmed receiving the same letter but contended that something was not right with the announcement. One operator told me he had spoken with someone at UWA and been cleared to continue hunting and that the suspension was only in certain areas. Another said he had a long term contract and he would hold the government to that even if it meant going to court.
I called the UWA to find out what was happening. Mapesa, I was told, was out of the country and the community conservation coordinator was serving in his stead. I spoke with the coordinator, who told me that sporthunting had been suspended throughout Uganda, not just in certain areas. The reason was the need for a game population census and a scientific method of determining quotas. Although the letter specifically mentioned a concern with illegal hunting and “equitable benefit sharing” from sporthunting, the coordinator insisted they just wanted a better quota-setting process. He had no idea what was being done to conduct a census or when the suspension might be lifted. I warned E-mail Extra subscribers about the situation, promising more information and encouraging them not to panic or cancel safaris until we knew more.
I very quickly learned that UWA had just gotten a new Board of Trustees. Some “internal house cleaning” and resulting tensions were at play here. According to a source who spoke directly with the new UWA Chairman of the Board, the board decided not to issue any new hunting concessions or a quota for 2011 until the question of a game census and quota setting process had been settled. “He does not want to stop hunting,” is what I was told. Word of my E-mail Extra Bulletin had apparently reached the UWA and a clarification on the suspension was to be posted on the UWA web site (www.ugandawildlife.org).
At this writing on August 19, nothing had been posted. However, clarification letters were sent to operators explaining that the temporary suspension was intended to affect only some agreements. The agreements under review and where sporthunting is temporarily suspended are: Ajai and Kafu, operated by Uganda Wildlife Safaris; Pian-Upe and Amudat in South Karamoja, operated by Karimojong Overland Safaris; and Katonga, operated by Game Trails.
If you have a safari booked into any of these concessions, don’t panic, but do contact your operator. Find out what the status of the suspension is and be flexible with your plans. If your hunt is not until 2011, you will need to find out from your operator when the UWA issues a quota for that season. If the UWA gets around to issuing their clarification, I will send out an E-mail Extra Bulletin and post it on our web site as soon I learn of it…