Home News Anti-Poaching World Lion Day: Why a New Communications System Signals a Bad Reception for Poachers 

World Lion Day: Why a New Communications System Signals a Bad Reception for Poachers 

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

New tech to prevent cat-astrophe 

Thanks in part to David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (DSWF) funding, a new communications system has been installed by our project partners on the ground, Uganda Conservation Foundation (UCF), in Murchison Falls National Park, north-west Uganda.  

Previously, the communications network in Murchison barely covered 5% of the protected area, focusing on the Delta – the main tourist area. The rest of the park had no tourism, no vehicles, no permanently based rangers, and little to no means of access by road. This huge area was rampant with poaching of lions and other wildlife for decades, with populations declining dramatically. A patrol or operation might pass through or be in an area for one day a month, but they wouldn’t be there for the next 29 days, meaning that most poaching went unreported – and that a rapid ranger response to such incidents was all but impossible.   

But now, with the installation of new radio towers and the roll out to rangers of digital radios and smart phones equipped with EarthRanger, the communications system now covers more than 85% of the National Park. UCF and the Ugandan Wildlife Authority (UWA – the government agency responsible for protecting wildlife) have divided the administrative boundaries of the entire park into nine precincts. Each has its own Sector Command Ranger Post, with solar power, a Commander, and a clear reporting structure. The greatest gain is that every day of the month, rangers are present in all sectors to prevent and disrupt poaching. 

Image credit: Uganda Conservation Foundation

Key timing  

The new communications system has been delivered at a particularly vital time. UWA’s resources are severely stretched, and they have been unable to afford to hire enough rangers to adequately protect the National Park, although a recent deployment has eased this shortage. Poaching has also risen considerably in the last 18 months, making the situation even more critical. Without this expanded communications network, UWA and UCF wouldn’t have a fighting chance of keeping the poachers at bay. 

Thanks to the new communications system, rangers are more motivated and their bravery and dedicated action on the ground is now being supported with systems that give them the backup they so desperately need. The roll-out of EarthRanger has been particularly game-changing.  It is a vital conservation tool for protected area management, allowing rangers to flag and log illegal activity in real time, track collared lions and other animals, and produce reports that help develop more effective wildlife protection strategies. As well as enabling a swifter and more coordinated response to poaching incidents, it has also vastly increased ranger ability to deal with issues of human-wildlife conflict (HWC) involving lions, elephants, and many other animals.   

Image credit: Lawrence Avery

Protecting lions in their natural environment 

The new communications system is already helping UCF protect lions in Murchison through closer monitoring of collared lions and rapid response to poaching and HWC conflict involving lions. This is particularly important, as Murchison is home to Uganda’s last stronghold population of lions. With a vet now in place to oversee the work, the focus for the project is now collaring as many lions as possible. This will enable UWA and UCF’s brave rangers and scouts to provide the close monitoring and protection that is so crucial in enabling the lion population here to continue to recover.  Increased collaring and the tracking and reporting that EarthRanger allows, will also enable the development of more data driven and robust strategies for protecting lions in Murchison, and ultimately elsewhere in Uganda, when similar systems are fully rolled out to other protected areas such as Queen Elizabeth and Kidepo Valley National Parks. 

If you would like to be part of the incredible work we support in Murchison Falls National Park, you can make a donation on behalf of lions here, or you can adopt Tibu, our lion ambassador in Uganda, from just £3 per month. 

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Andrew White
David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

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