The National Forestry Authority (NFA), has warned that Bukaleba Central Forest Reserve is on the verge of being wiped out following an influx of encroachers who have cleared up to 60 per cent of the forest for charcoal burning and cultivation.
It was first gazzetted in 1932 as a natural forest measuring about 1,000 hectares.
In 2005, the government allocated 900 hectares of the forest to private companies to preserve different species of trees, including Pine and Eucalyptus leaving 100 hectares to serve as a natural forest.
“The forest was left for conservation of important tree species like Prunas Africana, but these have been cut down by mainly herbalists because of their medicinal value. The area was also a habitat for wild animals like buffalos, monkeys and leopards, which have also since migrated to other areas,” the NFA manager in charge of Busoga region, Mr Joventine Odoi, said.
Mr Odoi said the encroachers who are believed to be locals living in camps along the shores of Lake Victoria often carry out the activities at night and are armed with pangas, arrows and machetes.
Last Thursday a combined force comprising of police and forest rangers carried out an operation to arrest the encroachers, but by the time the team arrived in the forest most of the culprits had escaped. “We have so far arrested only six people and impounded lots of wood. The six, will be prosecuted,” the commissioner of police in charge of environment, Mr David Twinomugisha, told the media last week.
SOURCE: Daily Monitor