Our spotlight is sweeping back and forth across the valley, a herd of impalas look like hundreds of small lights in the darkness as the beam catches their eyes. The tourists are eagerly looking out for a predator, be it a leopard or spotted hyena, they want to see one and they want to see one NOW. Suddenly a cacophony of barking dogs starts up on the hill to our right. I know the family there, they’ve got a pack of dogs to protect their goats and cows from the exact predators we’re trying to find. Human shouts add to the chorus. Only one thing can be happening. Predators on the attack.
The contrast of situations hits me. Here is a car load of people willing to pay a lot of money to see these predators and yet others are fighting these same predators to sustain their very livelihood. Surely it doesn’t have to be like this? This is exactly what the Mihingo Conservation Foundation (MCF) is working towards. Reducing human-wildlife conflict and linking communities to the numerous benefits of living alongside wildlife. Lake Mburo National Park (LMNP) in south west Uganda has no boundaries, only a few cement posts to mark where the national park and indviduals’ land meets. Obviously wildlife has no regard for such demarcations and as much, if not more, wildlife can be found beyond its borders than within. MCF works along the eastern boundary of LMNP listening to the community’s issues with wildlife and working to reduce these. Current projects range from student sponsorship to compensation of livestock killed by Park preda- tors. The livestock compensation programme has stopped the indiscriminate practice of poisoning carcasses in retribution to losses. In a case of predation MCF is called to inspect the carcass. If it is determine to be by a leopard or hyena, a contribution is offered and the carcass removed to prevent poisoning. Due to this the predator popula- tion in the area has increased, especially apparent in the hyena population as a large clan now lives on the hill next to Mihingo Lodge. It is through this scheme that the latest project for MCF was born. 64% of compensations in 2015 were due to poor or no kraal use. MCF now focuses on improving existing kraals and aids through the provision of iron sheeting and chain link fencing.
Not only is MCF trying to reduce the conflict but or spectating so come out and join us! also link the community to the benefit they can get from wildlife. St. Steven’s primary school is one such benefit. This school specifically aids orphans and families who cannot afford education by waiving school fees, providing uniforms and books and in some cases even boarding. Thanks to a Mihingo Lodge volunteer, Christel Orth, and the 2-4 Life project based in the US, this school now has two functioning classrooms and office compared to the wooden pole and tarpaulin structure initially used. With over 180 students it not only encourages education at an early age but acts as a refuge for children suffering abuse at home. At the opening of the first classroom one parent stood up and said he was thankful for the wildlife as without it the tourists would never have come to the area and the school would not have been built. Bonded by our common goals, we all shared a happy sigh.
Currently MCF is financed through activities done both at Mihingo Lodge and on adjacent community land, through fundraisers such as the Mihingo Run to be held again on the 4th June this year and donations. Any old iron sheeting left over from construction jobs is greatly accepted as well as chain link fencing. The Run will be a great weekend of fun, fitness and conservation for all those running, biking or spectating so come out and join us!
For more information about MCF or to sign from wildlife. St. Steven’s primary school is one up for the Run please email email@example.com