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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Queen Elizabeth National Park

The visit to Queen Elizabeth National Park has finally come and gone! I definitely circled this event on the itinerary out of excitement. The experience I had at this park was amazing. Queen Elizabeth National Park is the top two largest national parks in Uganda. This park is home to over 95 animal species and 614 species of birds. Before entering the park, we stopped alongside the road at the National Park lookout. This fall mountain that bordered the park provided us with an amazing view of what stood below. The park is very large. Inside the park lie two large lakes; Lake George and Lake Edward. Lake Edward is massive and its borders stretch into Congo which is Uganda’s neighbor to the west. The view was simply amazing. Both of these lakes were nothing less of breath taking.

It was really nice to see the animals in their natural habitats. We saw all kind of beasts including Elephants, Hippos and Water Buffalo all feeding on the banks of Lake Edward. My favorite was the Elephant. I enjoyed learning all kind of information about this large animal. During the game drive, the group got the chance to see a mother elephant walking around with its offspring. Elephants are very protective of their young. The young elephant often hides under the legs of its parents to hide itself from any danger. Elephants have no natural predator. The only predators to elephants are humans who hunt them for their tusks. Queen Elizabeth is home to about 500 Elephants. This figure has dropped tremendously from years back! At one point of time, there were about 5,000 elephants in this park. During the reign of Idi Amin he slaughtered thousands of elephant for their precious ivory which reduced their population greatly to about 300 elephants. This species is slowly but surely growing.

Our tour guide Moses was pretty cool. He talked about the conflict between the park and its local people. Queen Elizabeth National Park is home to 11 villages. These villagers are often farmers, salt miners of fishermen. This is how they make their living. Recently there were 5 lions poisoned to death by local farmers. The lions were preying on their cattle causing the farmers to lose money, so they took action to end this. This is having a negative impact on the ecosystem as well as tourism. There is often conflict between the park and local residents. Moses explained to us that the local people would sometimes hunt the animals inside the park for food. They would also pollute the water and land with trash which both have a negative impact on the environment. This can decrease the amount of local tourists who visit this park resulting in lack of revenue. There have been constant efforts from both the Uganda Wildlife Authority and local villagers to compromise. Moses stated that the park tries to help fund schools for the local village people to promote a healthy relationship between inhabitants and environment. This is definitely a way of sustainable development. It is a combined effort from the government; UWA and local village people to upkeep this beautiful park.

To attract visitors Queen Elizabeth National Park provides numerous activities. Some of these include boat rides, forest walks, hill climbing, and chimp searches. These activities increase the numbers of local tourism. This promotes sustainable development because by keeping this park as natural as possible, the higher the amount of tourism and revenue for the government. National Parks are great for sustainable development. They allow for the a huge pieces of land to go untouched and ruined by development which are turned into a way of local as well as international tourism. Maintaining this park requires a lot of labor will increase jobs for people such as Moses. Overall, I think that tourism to National Park is a sustainable industry. The Uganda Wildlife Authority should continue to focus on the upkeep of this park. By promoting a healthy relationship between the village people and the wild species, the park’s population will continue to grow in numbers which will attract more tourists resulting in more money for the park. This money could help aid the village people’s schools and general lifestyle to decrease the conflicts.

Posted By Matthew Hancock (through Brittany's Account)


  1. Wow Matt! This was a great and informative article. Keep up the good work.

  2. Visiting Queen Elizabeth National Park was awesome! I loved seeing the elephants and hippos on the boat tour. I think the boat tour and land safari are both sustainable industries that don't leave a large impact on the land. Although there are some issues from time to time with the local people, for the most part the animals and residents live together peacefully.

    The safaris are something that many tourists can enjoy and something they can not do in many other parts of the world. Plus it is a way for people to learn about the animals.

    The wildlife in Uganda's national parks is more diverse than some of the other African countries and this can be used in Uganda's favor. Kenya and Tanzania are currently ahead of Uganda in the tourism industry, but neither of those countries has mountain gorillas like Uganda does. Uganda can capitalize from opportunities such as this to get tourists to choose Uganda over some of the other countries.

  3. I am not so sure that this industry is truly sustainable until the political climate has changed. If the country breaks into riots or political unrest, tourism will drop sharply due to fear. Also, the infrastructure in place to actually get into the park is extremely poor. All of this serves as deterrents for tourists and whether or not this is a sustainable industry largely depends on how the government addresses these issues. The country also needs to address these issues quickly and effectively. Otherwise, much of the tourism will be lost to other competing African countries.

  4. This part of the trip was awesome! It definitely felt "African" like! I enjoyed the boat trip and seeing all the different type of animals! I think it is very interesting that the park was built around 11 villages and that partial funds from the park go into the villages systems. I think that if the QENP decides to expand their marketing efforts and attract more tourists that the park can definitely be a contributor to the entire country's sustainable development.Something that took me by surprise was that many of the Uganda people from other areas are beginning to travel and tour the park which also adds a considerable amount to the economy.

  5. Matt you caught a lot of great information that I missed so I am happy to see you that you put forth great effort to make sure you were able to provide us with a lot of the information that we were told during our visit! I think Alex is correct in what he is saying. That we must fix other things first before tourism can be a sustainable industry in Uganda. But I also agree that what the National Park is trying to do is helping to move towards some type of sustainable development for the economy by bringing in revenue, providing jobs, giving money to the villages to help them develop, and giving tourists a possible reason that they would want to come to Uganda despite anything they have heard or read.

  6. I found the relationship between QENP and the local villagers to be very interesting because my main research topic is studying social justice issues as a result of National Parks. Previously, I mainly looked at Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga National Park in the southwestern region of Uganda. In those two national parks, the Batwa, an indigenous tribe, were stripped of their land and given almost nothing as compensation. The tribe of former hunter-gatherers, who lived sustainably in the forest land as some of the first people in Uganda, was thrown into a money economy with no way to utilize their extensive knowledge and skills. Although it was the government who took their land, the Uganda Wildlife Authority hasn't worked to restore the land to its rightful owners.

    Because of this research, I was surprised when we went to QENP and found out that 11 communities were living inside the park. Although it sounds like the communities are "allowed" to live there and they aren't really consulted in regard to conservation efforts in the park. During a conversations I had with one of the MUBS students, he remarked that the animals in the park have more rights then the people. I understand the importance of conservation and especially how those efforts are essential to Uganda's tourism industry. However, peoples' lives should be valued, too. The UWA claims to give 20% of park fees to local communities, however, at least in the southwestern region, those funds don't reach the communities because of corruption. So, communities are left without their livelihood or compensation and the UWA looks good because of their conservation efforts and because they can claim to be helping local communities.

    I think in theory a partnership between the national parks and local communities is a great idea, but there needs to be someone who's there to ensure the rights of the people are not forgotten. I think that they need to work together because the only way conservation efforts are going to work is if local communities are involved. Like the incident with poisoning lions shows, there is definitely a disconnect between the two groups and the people must feel like their needs aren't being heard. They're told to live on this land and try to make a living within the restrictions the national park imposes, yet their also told that they can't defend themselves or their livelihood or they'll be fined. The park needs to figure out a way to hear the peoples' grievances in order to avoid a tragedy like this in the future. Both the animals and the people need to be protected and whether the UWA likes it or not, it's their responsibility.