Rubirizi — Six elephants were killed by poachers in Queen Elizabeth National Park in September, the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) has said, describing it as a setback in efforts to conserve the animals that are facing extinction.
The manager Queen Elizabeth protected area, Mr Nelson Guma, said the killing of the animals is a big loss, especially at a time when the wildlife conservation body is seeking to promote tourism.
Mr Guma expressed concern over the rising number of poachers who use firearms in the country's most visited game reserve. He said the attackers target ivory whose demand has increased on both local and international markets.
"We have lost many elephants and this activity (armed poaching) puts at risk my rangers who are found in the park. This is a very big challenge and a threat to the park," he said during an end of year staff party last week.
"Those who come with guns into the park have come to wage war against us. But rules of engagement will apply and those found with firewood or grazing animals, we shall prosecute them," Mr Guma added.
The conservation manager also accused politicians of supporting poachers, alleging that they accuse UWA officials of killing people with impunity in the park.
"As I speak, two of my staff are in prison on allegations that 30 people in Kasese disappeared in the park recently. As UWA, we are concerned about the allegations and the negative propaganda."
He said they are ready to negotiate with the communities who claim their land was encroached on by UWA such as those in Katunguru and Kahendero.
The national park spans Kasese, Mitooma, Rukungiri, Kamwenge, Kanungu, Ibanda and Rubirizi districts in western Uganda.
The Rubirizi Resident District Commissioner, Mr Joseph Kule Muranga, who was the chief guest at the staff party, said RDCs, district police commanders and district security officers in the seven districts discussed the security of wild animals in the park following the death of the elephants.
Although, Uganda has made progress in fighting poaching, the practice still goes on. In 2013, President Museveni ordered the UPDF and the Uganda Wildlife Authority to shoot on sight any poacher found in a national park. The President gave the directive in Kidepo while the national park was marking 50 years of existence.