Queen Elizabeth National Park, situated in the western region of Uganda is home to a good number of wildlife that attracts thousands of tourists for Uganda Wildlife Safaris. Queen Elizabeth National Park is home a good number of bird species as well as Africa’s iconic wildlife species like the Buffaloes, Uganda kobs, Tree Climbing Lions, Antelopes, Topis, and elephants that normally disturb the neighboring community. In order to cub this crime, the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) has been constructing an electric fence between Kafuru village and the 1, 978 square kilometer Queen Elizabeth National Park since October 2018 and is set to be complete in April 2019. This is when its full effectiveness will be tested.
The Uganda Wildlife Authority said that the fence is not constructed to prevent people from crossing to the park, but it will help to demarcate the park’s boundary more clearly and assist park rangers in enforcing security to curb poaching and stop animals from spoiling people’s property, as well as stop those people that harvest of natural resources from the park. The population of both elephants and human beings around the park has been increasing over the years leading to the human-wildlife conflict more so at an increased rate. The Chief Warden Asalu, says a recent airborne survey found close to 4, 000 elephants in the park. with these numbers, it has been very hard to control these elephants. He also added that UWA has in the past had its own staff get killed during missions to scare away the elephants from the communities.
The Uganda Wildlife Authority in the past had come up with several interventions such as bee farming because bees irritate elephants as well as digging trenches in the park’s hotspots to try to stop elephants from going into the communities. However, all these came with little success because of the high intelligence that was displayed by the elephants.
Therefore, a line of holes has been dug and round posts; each 3ft high have been fixed with three lines of 2.55mm high tensile wires strung across the posts. They have worked out a short-post fence with long electrified outriggers and they believe it will work best.
When you guise at the fence under construction, it is difficult to believe that this short and weak-looking fence can stop a buffalo, let alone an elephant! However, Ibrahim Njenga, a Kenyan fence technician overseeing the work in Queen Elizabeth National Park has successfully worked for over 8 years and has worked on similar fences in Botswana, Gabon, and Kenya. He strongly says that the fence definitely works but it is only needed in short stretches where human-elephant conflict is worst.
He guaranteed that building electrified fences is the most effective way to succeed or the best way to save people from these wild animals that spoil their crops as well as other property. Njenga explained that the fence’s effectiveness in blocking elephants is built around “outriggers” (beams) that are wires that slant from the vertical posts at an angle of 45 degrees towards the direction the animal will most likely approach from.
He says “when the system is switched on, electricity pulses of up to 9, 000 volts drawn from solar-powered energizers feed into the wires. Then, when the wires touch an elephant on the soft flesh of its chest or its trunk, the animal is shocked and forced to turn away before it can reach the posts to destroy the fence and the crops that lie beyond.”
A Ugandan supervisor of the fencing team also added that the electric fence has brought almost instant results saying the elephants had a particular course along which they would move and cross and destroy people’s farms but that has now stopped. A relief for residents here, who have experienced human-wildlife conflict for over 40 years.
A big vote of thanks goes to the President Yoweri Museveni that also voiced his concern about the growing human-wildlife conflict around the country’s conservation areas. Museveni is a founding member of the Giants Club, a conservation programme under Space for Giants that brings together political leaders, financiers, and scientists to endorse, fund, and implement elephant landscape protection projects. At a summit organized in Kenya in 2016, he called for a solution to the growing human-elephant conflict in Uganda.
The fence will be maintained where it is damaged, to keep it effective.