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UGANDA’S WILDLIFE MINISTER LEADS CEREMONY TO MOURN 11 LIONS FOUND DEAD AT NATIONAL PARK

KAMPALA-- Uganda's Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities Minister, Professor Ephraim Kamuntu, has officiated at a ceremony at Hamukungu village in Kasese district, some 360 kiloemtres west of here in memory f 11 lions which were found dead near the village Wednesday.

This took place Friday at a community meeting held at Hamukungu, where the minister also prayed for the lions, which he said had committed no crime.

According to the minister, the carcasses of a pride of lions consistig of three adult lionesses and eight cubs were found in the Queen Elizabeth National Park, just outside Hamukungu village.

The whole country and the international community are mourning the loss of our lions because they were international icons for their capacity to climb trees, said Kamuntu, who added that the loss of the lions were a huge blow to tourism because nowhere else can climbing lions be found except in Queen Elizabeth National Park.

So when you kill the main tourist attraction, you are killing the source of revenue which is used to provide you with services, Kamuntu said as several Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) officials, who had accompanied him, remained silent throughout.

The officials included Uganda Wildlife Authority Executive Director Sam Mwandha, Queen Elizabeth Conservation Area Chief Warden Edward Esalu, UWA Operations Director Charles Tumwesigye and Ivan Batuma, a member of the UWA Board.

Should more wildlife, especially lions, be killed, the government will take very harsh action against the perpetrators, Kamuntu warned.

He said preliminary findings from the samples from the carcasses, the soils and the dead flies from the scene pointed to poisoning and he urged local residents to help expose the suspects. "Unless you help us to produce the culprits, you will all remain suspect. I want you to help us find the culprit(s). Until then, you are all suspects."

Recalling that herdsmen had earlier killed lions in 2007 (13 animals) and 2010 (about nine), Kamuntu said the government might be tempted to chase the cattle away.

At the same time, he announced that the government was finalizing a law to address the comfits between wildlife and communities surrounding protected areas, including compensation for bodily harm and the destruction of crops or domestic animals.

Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK

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