Every year, Uganda Wildlife Authority, organizes a Wildlife Marathon ahead of the UN World Wildlife Day celebrations held on March 3rd. This year’s theme for the marathon was “Harmonious living between wildlife and people with a focus on raising money for children of fallen rangers.
In Uganda, according to Uganda Wildlife Authority Deputy Director of Conservation Charles Tumwesigye, “about 25 rangers have lost their lives in the line of duty over the past five years across all protected wildlife areas. Some were murdered by poachers and others by armed robbers targeting cash paid by tourists at national park gates in protected areas.”
Uganda is renowned for its wildlife on which its tourism industry is built, but prowling in the shadows is the threat of poaching that has taken on the deadly aspect of not only endangering the wildlife species but also the killing of game rangers who are at the forefront of wildlife conservation.
“To anyone who lost a parent (s) the understanding is simple. They died in service for the nation. As rangers in the national parks protecting the voiceless, the wildlife. The benefits of their work is for the global community’’ Lilly Ajarova, Executive Director Chimpanzee Trust said.
I understand these were mothers and fathers who left young children who need to be supported to grow, to be educated and become responsible citizens and great leaders of this great nation, that is why we need to support them through this marathon, she stated.
For game rangers in Uganda, protecting wildlife has become a life-threatening mission since poaching became one of the fastest growing international crimes, especially now that it is linked with terrorism and wildlife trophy trafficking.
The International Rangers Federation (IRF) in its 2014 report, stated that an average of 100 game rangers died annually protecting wildlife, with over 1,000 recorded fatalities between 2004 and 2014, a figure that could easily be doubled since many developing countries do not keep detailed records.
Not to underscore the price that game rangers face in Uganda, at Kidepo National Park, the park has a cemetery containing six graves of rangers killed on duty on October 18, 1959. The Hero’s Cemetery is the final resting place of the parks fallen rangers who were killed in 1959 in a gunfire exchange with armed Sudanese poachers at Uganda’s border with Sudan.
In memory of Uganda’s fallen rangers, thousands of people flocked this year’s World Wildlife Marathon, which was flagged off by Minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, Godfrey Kiwanda at the Uganda Museum.
The marathon is part of a series of activities organized by Uganda Wildlife Authority ahead of the UN World Wildlife Day celebrations. On Tuesday the 26th, celebrations continue with a Conservation Conference 2019 organized by Nature Uganda in collaboration with the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities.
The World Wildlife day 2019 (theme: ‘Life below water: for people and planet’) is in alignment with the Sustainable Development Goal 14 –Life below water, which focuses on marine species. However, since marine environments are not a focus for Uganda, the national organizing committee developed a national theme: “Harmonious living between wildlife and people”.