6-year old lion replaces Kibonge at UWEC

A six-year-old lion arrives today to replace Kibonge at the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre (UWEC) Entebbe. The young lion is expected to arrive from South Africa in the early afternoon.

“He is called Letaba which means happiness in South Africa. He was donated by Lions Park Johannesburg South Africa,” said James Musinguzi, the Executive Director, UWEC.

Lebata replaces Kibonge, who died last year on November 28, aged 18 years. UWEC Public relations officer, Belinda Atim. Atim said the lion could have succumbed to old age-related disorders. Prior to his death, Kibonge had multiple wounds, could not stand on his own, and breathed with difficulty. He had lived at the centre since 1999 when he was donated to UWEC by Nairobi Park aged three. By the time of his death, Kibonge was one of the main attractions at the education centre.

The arrival of a young lion at the centre is greeted with joy in the wildlife conservation fraternity. “That is a welcome development,” remarked Amos Wekesa, the director Great Lakes Safaris. He added, “It makes both conservation and commercial value given that the presence of just one lion in any commercial environment – commercial environment meaning zoo or protected or conservation area – brings in USD$100,000 (about Shs290 million) a year.”

Musinguzi revealed that Lebata is going to be used to carry out conservation education at the centre under the lion conservation project. “We need to conserve more lions, for currently we have less than 400 lions in Uganda,” Musinguzi said. But why get lion from South Africa and not pick one, say, from one of the protected areas? One may ask. “It is like getting a free man and put him in captivity,” Musinguzi illustrated. “Centres like this get animals that are injured or endangered that are released into the wild when appropriate. So we cannot get a lion in the wild and put it in a cage.” He also explained that bringing a lion from South Africa helps avoid inbreeding of animal species but allows cross breeding. “Cross breeding introduces new genetic material which enhances variability of the animal species,” explained Musinguzi.

bmutebi@ug.nationmedia.com

SOURCE: Daily Monitor

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