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The Key Challenges Facing The Management Of Queen Elizabeth National Park

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This Report will outline the key challenges facing the management of Queen Elizabeth National Park. The report will critically explore the management techniques and policies used by the governing body (Ugandan Wildlife Authority) to tackle issues related to human – wildlife/conservation conflicts. A focus of this report will be placed on historical conflicts in the area, and how current techniques used work in practise, focusing on Community Based conservation, Revenue Sharing and collaborative management.

Background History

Gazetted in 1952, Queen Elizabeth National Park (QENP) covers a total area of 1,978km. The park is home to a variety of native animals, such as lions, leopards, bush pigs, warthogs, elephants, hyenas, buffalo, hippopotamus, and over 600 species of bird. There are two main rainy seasons, March to May and September to November, and the park consists mainly of savanna with forest areas. The park has eleven communities operating inside of the national park, who rely largely on fishing activities in Lake George and Lake Edward, including the connecting Kazinga Channel. Salt winning is also a large income source for some villages inside QENP, situated at the deep impact crater of Lake Katwe. The main ethnic groups in the park and surrounding areas are the Bakonjo, Basongora, Banyaruguru, and the Bakiga. Whilst these villages are self-governing, the park is managed by the Ugandan Wildlife Authority (UWA, 2016). The gazetting of QENP brought instant changes for local communities inside the park. The fishing villages in the park where allowed to remain, with newly created exclusion zones placed around them (Spinage, 1998). The management technique used in the park was a fortress style approach to conservation, involving hard policing of park borders and state made decisions on local community requirements. The preservation of wildlife during this time came above the needs of park inhabitants and surrounding communities (Hulme and Murphree, 1999).

During the first 20 years of being gazetted, Queen Elizabeth National Park alongside the others in Uganda thrived, with low surrounding population densities and park enforcement being focused mainly on protecting farmer livestock. However, political tensions, economic deterioration and lawlessness saw wildlife in the park areas suffer, with illegal and state supported hunting rife throughout the country (Chetri, 2003). After a reviewing of institutional Arrangements for wildlife management, the Game department and Uganda National Parks where merged, creating the Uganda Wildlife Authority in 1996. During 1975 and 1995, it is estimated that Uganda lost approximately 50% of its overall biodiversity, amid a turbulent time for the country (Pomeroy, 2017). Attitudes towards how National parks should be managed changed during the 1980’s, as it became evident that without the participation and interaction of local communities, conservation goals would not be effective. This change in attitude saw people no longer as a problem, but as local actors of change, and bottom up approaches to policy creation where adopted in the late 1990’s (Turyahabwe, 2008). With this change in attitude and policy creation came a change in the key challenges QENP would face.

Key Challenges faced today

SEDAC (2016) data shows that from 1995 to 2015 highest population density increases across the rift valley area where adjacent to Queen Elizabeth National Park in the Bwindi and Mgahinga regions (CIESEN, 2016) Uganda having an annual growth rate of 3.3% makes it the 5th highest in the world. It also has 80% of its residents in rural areas, meaning the creation of ecological islands is likely (Salerno et. al, 2017).

As Population and population density increases in surrounding national park areas, so will the potential for human wildlife conflict. This can in turn cause conflict between the communities and park officials, as communities think that it is up to the government to stop wildlife crop raids. Hartter et. al’s 2016 study shows that approximately 56% of households in communities adjacent to QENP spent time guarding their crops from park animals. Extending on this, the study also shows that 11% of the survey group from QENP believing they should be allowed to poach (Hartter et. al, 2016). Poaching has been a historical threat to QENP and is an international threat to species diversity and a driver of extinction. Species extinction destroys ecosystems and weakens the communities and economies dependent on them. Whilst some poachers can be part of serious crime organisations, and some can be very local, small time ones, which proves the different scale of problem in which the park faces in defending against poaching with limited resources (Yang et al, 2014). The key drives behind poaching can be classed as; Necessity; Profit; and Historic Cultural practices (Mereto and Lemieux, 2015). The impact that Political unrest had on QENP is clear, and the Impacts of war can be felt from neighbouring countries as well. For example an increasing in poaching in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Parc National des Virunga means a higher density of Elephants migrating into Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth national park in recent years. This has in turn increased crop raiding and habitat degradation in the area, fuelling conflict (Keigwin Et Al, 2018). Another Key challenge for park management is Climate change. Changes in rainy seasons will disrupt breeding patterns of many birds in southern Uganda. Also, plants and animals that are endemic to the Albertine rift area are found at higher altitudes, meaning they will have to adapt or move higher, of which there is higher altitude and habitat decreases (Pomeroy, 2017).


Relationship between Park Officials and Locals

Despite not having hard borders with police style enforcement, patrols are still a necessary part of QENP management. It could be argued that increased efficiency of current resources could dramatically change the effectiveness of poaching patrols, and help to fund resources into other areas of conservation such as Community based approaches. Critchlow Et Al’s 2017 study on has shown that current patrol strategies are performing at a sub-par level, and predicts a potential 50% increase in illegal activity detection if allocation of existing patrols are improved. This improved method includes using data from maps that provide information on the probability of illegal activity occurrence using Bayesian maps of occurrence that focuses maximum patrol efforts in areas of maximum crime probability. However, further testing is needed for longer periods of time to properly see changes in illegal poaching behaviour (Critchlow Et Al, 2017).

To continue, one factor the module does not consider is that ranger culture can impact the effectiveness of patrols. For example, some will allow illegal access into the parks for food or money, whilst some will behave poorly in public leading to disrespect from the local communities. Rangers can also have a good or bad mind set of certain communities that can lead to biases and unjust treatment of others (Moreto, 2013). Despite these issues, Moreto Et. Al’s 2016 study shows that most park rangers enjoyed their job, with four reasons reoccurring; Conservation efforts; financial stability; Front line working and establishing ownership of the park; Personal and social development (Moreto et al, 2016). Rangers can play a big role in non-traditional law enforcement and therefore be a key role in community based conservation, as they are the everyday representatives local communities see.

Community based Conservation

Community based conservation is a philosophy that aims to take into consideration the concerns of local people and mitigate the negative impacts they may face from conservation efforts (Scott, 1998). Instead of seeing locals as passive agents and potential problems, it aims to use collaborative resource management to allow these people to take control of their own lives, alleviating them from poverty and using them as a solution to conservation clashes. The NGO ‘CARE Uganda’ argue that rights based approaches to conservation must be used when planning to implement policies. It has been shown that protected areas in developing countries impose negative impacts on local communities and that the rural poor frequently experience a net negative impact on their livelihoods, and by strengthening the rights of local people, these impacts could be reduced(Franks, 2007). For example, Strengthening of property rights and procedural rights has meant that forced relocations are becoming less of a worry in present day. Expanding on this, Franks et al’s 2018 study argues that equity is more important than equality when attempting to engage local communities in park management. Equity is depended on effective governance, which is about power, relationships, accountability and tough decision making. However, this policy in action can be dependent on the relationship between local park rangers and local communities, meaning there is a susceptibility to bias.

Revenue Sharing

Revenue Sharing is a popular form of Community Based Conservation. Under the Tourism Revenue Sharing Policy of 2000, the UWA are required to distribute 20% of park entry fees to local bordering communities of QENP under Ugandan law. These payments are handled by local governments, and usually target community groups, intended to offset the negative impact the park causes to their lives (Mackenzie, 2012). Payments go towards building facilities that will benefit individuals collectively. Due to the nature of small scale farming that occurs in these areas, complex compensation schemes would be impractical, so mitigation strategies are promoted instead of financial incentives. Whilst individual payments schemes for wildlife encroachment could be effective, only 15-20% of Ugandan land is legally registered so the scheme would prove to be of high administrative costs that could prove to be ineffective (Gatiso, 2018). Moghari’, 2009 observed that local communities bordering and inside QENP had frequently been in contact with lions, and where aware of conflicts in their communities or nearby villages. The support given for lion conservation was mainly due to alleged economic benefits from QENP’s tourism sector. Having said this, respondents in this study argue that retaliation by killing is justified, as there is no compensation for damage caused by the animals, and park officials often take far too long to respond to emergency calls. Whilst community conservation policies such as 20% of gate fees going to local communities was widely accepted, in practise these ideas have been argued as being disappointingly unproductive, Pointing out the need for alternative resource allocation and collaborative management.

Collaborative Management

It could be argued that a key factor in financial aid not being affective of this being that many local communities do not understand the full economic value of nature etc. For community based conservation to work effectively, efforts need to be made to compile a detailed list of community specific incentives, rather than just financial gain to motivate local stewardship (Worah, 2002). It is important to create a policy and legal environment that can allow these incentives to operate. For example, empirical evidence shows that forestry areas may hold more of a value to communities than originally perceived. It has been found that a significant amount of household consumables are derived from the woods and protected areas, and the highest dependency of this are the absolute poorest in the community (Bush, 2009). This study found that reducing access to these resources can increase poverty, and placing sanctions on these areas may not actually reduce forest exploitation. This would argue that community conservation and integrated conservation plans need to target the poor forest adjacent households actively to reduce poverty and provide improved protection and effective conservation, through means such as CARE Uganda’s Woodland Forestry Programme, which helps to plant trees specifically for community use (Balewa, 2017).

Expanding on this, whilst schemes such as CARES Woodland forestry programme do help offset demand on park resources, is this enough, and is it sustainable? It is not enough to simply provide alternative resources to these communities, but it is important to explore the complex social relationships at play when discussing ownership, usage and management of resources (Blomley, 2000). Expanding on this, whilst alternative resource provision may prove to be successful for communities, outside of the park, this may be harder to structure inside the park. For example Fishing villages subsist almost entirely on resources within the park. It has been found that if the fishing methods used are illegal, it is extremely damaging to the fish life in that area. Whilst collecting poles, fire wood and grass has all been banned in the park, a system of bribes to park officials exists which impacts the effectiveness of conservation (Aramburu, 1998). This blocking of resources has created a feeling of resentment from locals to park officials, as they see the park and its representatives as denying them access to fundamental resources to live.


It is evident that fortress style conservation in QENP and national parks throughout Africa have been characterised by conflicts between the incompatibilities of local development goals and conservation management techniques (Norgrove and Hulme, 2006). A key challenge facing the management of QENP moving forward is creating an effective and trusting relationship with local communities, amidst growing population densities. A key underlying factor in the effectiveness of Management schemes and policy creation is the relationship between Park representatives and local communities. Findings from Moreto et al’s 2016 study show that the relationship between rangers and park inhabitants is improving, however, this does depend on what type of ranger you are. Despite this however, villagers are reported happy to see rangers defend their crops from protect area wildlife, as crop raiding has been rife in the area, and they understand the importance of the work they are doing.

Also, revenue sharing that goes to building well planned developments like schools have been very well received that has been viewed by this study as playing a key role in strengthening ranger villager relationships. By strengthening the ranger villager relationship, they have more informal agreements in the form of strengthen contacts into what might be occurring illegally in the area. Rangers also believe that hiring ex poachers as casual labourers reduces re offending and helps in efforts to effectively stop poaching. However tensions can boil over when touted revenue does not reach villages and is distributed at the district level instead. Villagers turn their attentions to the park rangers. Also they can be seen as the enemy because they are the ones that are stopping you from getting natural resources and people see the animals as the UWA’s, not theirs, so when crops are raided, it is the UWA’s fault.

Expanding on this, as the national parks in Uganda are not enforced with borders, it is common that protected game will graze with livestock. QENP holds populations of African buffalo, kudu and waterbuck that all have been seen to be carriers of the virus Lumpy Skin Disease (LSD). Outbreaks Have been observed in districts bordering QENP at a higher number than at bordering districts of the other six national parks in Uganda (Ochwo, 2002-2016). 20 out of 44.4% of outbreaks in districts bordering national parks where at QENP. Whilst, these areas bordering national parks in Uganda only make up for 3.9% of LSD cases, this is an example of where conflict between the local communities and the park can start. Farmers may feel owed compensation, but may never receive it, or the perceived benefits from the Gate revenue sharing policy. Collaborative management and alternative resource management in the form of healthcare provisions should be encouraged to avoid happenings that will weaken park/ people relationships.

A key tool in dealing with the main challenges facing Queen Elizabeth National Park today is tourism. Tourism and travelling in Uganda is already a Key contributor to GDP, with a total contribution of US $ 2.1 Billion in 2013 (Ministry of Tourism, 2014). Uganda is re-emerging as a global tourist destination, however the growth of the tourism network has been halted as there is only a few elitist tourism firms and tightly controlled travelled arrangements (Christian et al, 2013). Whilst Uganda has the potential, political unrest, the image of instability and lack of investment into the tourism sector has halted its development. Ugandan government has chosen tourism as one of the 8 productive sectors that will aim to change the country in the next 30 years.

Tourism is an ever-expanding industry that can pull economies out of poverty. Despite the growth In tourist from 2001 – 2008 (200,000 – 844,00) Uganda’s absolute poverty rate has only dropped from 45% – 39% – placed down to low Government commitments, limited community involvement and undesirable local human resource capacity. (Tukamushaba, 2011). Community based conservation efforts need to focus on tourism education and training for local groups, to promote inclusion and social mobility, by decentralizing the tourism sector, and working with a bottom up approach to tourism (Wild, 2006). Whilst tourism revenue sharing is a key factor it could be argued that to properly increase tourist revenue, Political stability, the development of niche tourism opportunities, improved transport and other critical infrastructure elements are key to truly capitalising from tourism which will further help to alleviate poverty for those involved (Andrews Et. Al, 2012). Decentralizing the tourism industry alongside mitigation strategies to assist with wildlife encroachment is a policy that brings in the needs of local communities whilst also striving towards conservation goals.

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