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Data Deficiency Threatens Conservation Efforts for Endangered Wild Species in Northern Uganda :: Uganda Radionetwork
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Data Deficiency Threatens Conservation Efforts for Endangered Wild Species in Northern Uganda

In an interview with Uganda Radio Network, Dr. Achilles Brunnel Byaruhanga, a Herpetologist and Principal Investigator with Nature Uganda, expressed his concern about the lack of data in the North. He explains that the absence of proper studies and conservation efforts puts these amphibian and reptilian species at risk of extinction.
Team of resaerchers inspecting Opidi Local Forest for herpetology study-Photo By Simon Wokorach

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Northern Uganda's biodiversity faces significant challenges due to a lack of information, particularly in herpetology, the study of reptiles and amphibians. The region lacks adequate data on rare and endangered wild species, including snakes, turtles, chameleons, and frogs. 

This deficiency poses a serious threat to their conservation and the natural ecological balance in the region. Uganda's Nature Data Portal reveals that the country is home to about 22% of the world's amphibians and 19% of reptilian species. 

However, this data is mainly concentrated in the Central and Western parts of the country, while the Northern and Eastern regions remain under-documented. In an interview with Uganda Radio Network, Dr. Achilles Brunnel Byaruhanga, a Herpetologist and Principal Investigator with Nature Uganda, expressed his concern about the lack of data in the North. 

He explains that the absence of proper studies and conservation efforts puts these amphibian and reptilian species at risk of extinction. The loss of these species could disrupt the natural ecological balance, leading to increased pests and parasites that can threaten food security for farmers.

 

//Cue in: “In your home….   

Cue out…” controlled by reptiles,”//

Nature Uganda, in collaboration with the JRS Biodiversity Foundation, has allocated US$ 256,446 (over Shillings 930 million) in funding for herpetology research projects in the region. The study comprises 63 researchers, including 10 science master’s students from Gulu University, Muni and Mbarara Universities, 20 research assistants, and rangers from Uganda Wildlife Authority. 

The researchers are tasked with studying the behaviors, geographic ranges, physiologies, and genetics of these endangered wild species. On Monday, the team inspected the ecological statuses of a few study areas starting off in the Tochi water catchment areas before proceeding to Opidi local forest reserve in Nwoya and Awer Stream in Amuru.  

The areas mapped out for the study project among others include Zoka Forest in Adjumani D, River Nile, Agoro Hill in Lamwo, Aswa River, and River Unyama with several tributaries and wetlands inclusive. The data collection is expected to conclude in January 2024 for the twelve months study project, which will end in August 2024 with each case location assigned 2 researchers and their assistants.  

The Dean of Faculty Agriculture at Gulu University Dr. Collin Okello commended the collaboration and partnership in conserving the endangered wild species in the region.  He noted that the increasing human interaction with the environment has perpetually reduced habitats for these rare wild species, exposing them to the threat of extinction.  

Collins Acile, one of the researchers and a Biodiversity Conservation student at Muni University is hopeful that the project will adequately equip him with nature conservation skills.  “Biodiversity is going down because of the high human footprints but we couldn’t respond to these emerging threats to save these animals due to insufficient data which we hope to establish” he added.

However, to the herpetologists, there is a need for the conservation of amphibians and reptiles which would offer the farmers natural ecological services against pests and diseases.