April 13 (UPI) — Wildlife and tourism officials in Uganda said they suspect intentional poisoning caused the deaths of 11 lions — including eight cubs — this week.
Bashir Hangi, communications manager of the Uganda Wildlife Authority, said officials found the dead pride of lions in the fishing village of Hamukungu in Queen Elizabeth National Park.
“We are suspecting poisoning. The information we have is that they attacked someone’s cow but we are yet to establish who exactly,” he told the Daily Monitor.
Hangi said authorities launched an investigation to determine what killed the animals.
“It is still only a suspicion. We will try to establish the real cause of death,” he said.
Herbert Byaruhanga, deputy executive director of the Uganda Tourism Association, said the lions’ deaths will harm the local tourism industry.
“It will affect the tourism sector very much because lions are among the top animals that attract tourists into the area. The government should actually use force to get the people out or do not allow them to graze their animals in the park,” he said.
In recent years, conservationists have warned about declining numbers of African lions in Uganda. Researchers from the Wildlife Conservation Society and Scotland’s University of St. Andrews said in 2013 African lions in some areas of Uganda have decreased by more than 30 percent over the past 10 years — mostly the result of poisoning by local cattle herders, retaliation for livestock predation and other human-related conflicts.
“I can confirm that we shall get to the bottom of the situation,” said Akankwasah Barirega, Wildlife Conservation in the Ministry Of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities commissioner. “Whoever did it will face the long arm and the full wrath of the law.”