MIKE Support for Queen Elizabeth National Park
The Queen Elizabeth Protected Area is in western Uganda and is made up of the park itself and two buffering Wildlife Reserves. The area is known for its wildlife, including Cape buffaloes, hippopotami, crocodiles, elephants, leopards, lions and chimpanzees. Its elephant population was recently reported as over 5000 individuals. This gives QEPA by far the largest elephant population in Uganda. The population has been increasing steadily over the last twenty years, since being reduced to around 150 elephants in the 1980s.
However, the area faces several major threats that risk undermining this recovery and progress. In March 2017, with funds from the EU, the MIKE Programme began to build on the long-established relationship with the area to provide support to address key capacity needs. This started with the development of a law enforcement plan that defined the most important threats impacting the area, and the actions needed to address them, which provided a framework for the support subsequently provided.
Two major issues were that there was no communications network across the park, and rangers lacked facilities that would enable them to be based in areas where the major threats were occurring. Although small steps had been made to address this over the last 20 years, the sustained support from the EU via the MIKE Programme over the last 6 years and planned for another 2-3 years has had a major impact on the area’s management capacity and ability to effectively combat poaching.
To address this the project has supported the construction and operationalisation of a Joint Operations Command Centre, including, with co-funding from the African Elephant Fund, the foundations of a digital radio network. The operations room is providing the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) with the ability to monitor and manage the park’s operations in real-time, coordinating resources and dramatically increasing protected area management professionalism.
Ranger outposts have also been constructed, which have enabled key parts of the part that have traditionally been hard to control, which has had a major impact on reducing illegal activities. The project has also supported the QEPA Marine Ranger Unit with the provision of specialist staff training, patrol boats and engines and the provision of two Quick Reaction Force cars. Patrol rations and equipment have also been provided to ensure operations have continued uninterrupted for several years.
Thanks to the EU’s support the UWA has been able to continue management and patrol operations in the area despite all the challenges during the COVID pandemic, including a huge drop in visitors and associated revenue. Sustained support to the area combined with the provision of training, equipment, rations and improved management resources and transportation has helped move from a culture of passive or reactionary management to a more proactive, responsive and preventative approach.