A study by experts shows that oil activities in Murchison Falls National Park has not much affected the wildlife movement and feeding habits in the area. Commissioned shortly after Total E&P started oil exploration in the area, the study was conducted by a team from Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) and Wildlife Conservation Foundation.
Commissioned shortly after Total E&P started oil exploration in the area, the study was conducted by a team from Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) and Wildlife Conservation Foundation. It sought to find out how exploration would impact on the movement patterns, feeding habits and general change in the behaviour of the animals. Reports had indicated that the noise generated by the machinery is driving away the animals from their usual habitats.
The wardens at the park say since the onset of the oil exploration activities, many animals, particularly elephants had moved away from their usual spots. They add that this in turn angers tourists who visit the park to see these animals.
Tour operators also voiced the same fears that they would lose business if the movement pattern of the wildlife is altered as a result of oil activities. Geoffrey Baluku, the Secretary General of Association of Uganda Tour Operators, says the reports that the animals are moving away from their usual habitats are true. He says many times the tourists they have been taking to the park complain. He says even the behaviour of the animals is changing and becoming more hostile. Baluku says this in turn makes it difficult to market the national parks, particularly Murchison Falls where the oil activities are being carried out.
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He says though currently the trend has not affected the number of tourists visiting the park, he believes if it continues, tourists may be forced to look for other options elsewhere.
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However, despite the fears of the tour operators and other stakeholders, results of the preliminary studies carried out in the park shows that no significant change in behaviour. Charles Tumwesigye, the Deputy Director of Conservation at UWA, says so far the trend is that the oil activity has not much affected the wildlife. He says though it is true that some animals are moving away from their usual habitats, he attributes this to historical movement patterns, particularly for elephants. He however says at this time they cannot rule out the fact that oil exploration maybe driving the animals away.
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Tumwesigye says they cannot depend on the preliminary results adding that it may take about three years before a conclusion is drawn on whether oil activities are negatively affecting the wildlife movement in the area. He says currently more data on animal behaviour is being documented, including their location and feeding patterns. He says after consistently observing these, UWA will come up with a conclusion based on their findings.