Breaking

Relief on Musambwa Island as L. Victoria Water Levels Recede

Enoch Ntale, Coordinator- Musambwa Island Joint Conservation Organisation -MIJCO, says they will improve their conservation operations starting with rehabilitating the breeding colonies which were devastated by the floods.
Part of Musambwa island submerged by L. Victoria water in 2020

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The receding water levels in Lake Victoria have brought relief to the fishermen and conservationists living on Musambwa Island.

Enoch Ntale, Coordinator- Musambwa Island Joint Conservation Organisation -MIJCO, says they will improve their conservation operations starting with rehabilitating the breeding colonies which were devastated by the floods.

He adds that the water receded about three meters adding that the birds are slowly returning to occupy the drying colonies to nest.     He says the wild waves which used to crush rocks and splash water in the breeding colonies have also reduced and created relief for the birds in the meantime.  

In addition, the non-resident fishermen have reduced due to a low fish catch this season which has created enough space on the island.   

//Cue in: “Amataba go gakendedemuko……………………   

Cue out:…………………baba tebasobola kugenyiwalako.”//  

The six-acre-island located in the Northwestern part of the lake in Kabira sub-county, Kyotera district, is the world’s largest breeding colony for tens of thousands of grey-headed gulls, little egrets and long-tailed cormorant and other bird species.

Musambwa island is one of the global conservation areas (Ramsar sites) critically important for bird breeding. It is also colony for more than 100 other bird species in addition to snakes and pythons.   

In 2020, it was nearly swallowed up by the rising water levels in the lake caused by the persistent torrential rainfall.The 2019-2020 report from the Ministry of Water, indicates that the water levels in Lake Victoria had hit the record of13.42-metre mark surpassing the 1964 record of 13.41 meters.   

As a result, Islands including Musambwa and Migingo among other areas were greatly affected by the rising water levels forcing several occupants to evacuate.   

At Muswambwa, the water gradually extended a distance of more than 6 meters from the original shoreline and around the island. It destroyed close to 1000 eggs, nests, and killing over 500 birds mostly helpless chicks which could not fly.   

Ntale recounts that the breeding places and human settlements were flooded forcing the residents to shift into the dry breeding colonies for survival.    He explains that the rising water levels disturbed the conservation plans and affected the breeding pattern of the birds forcing some to migrate.   

However, Ntale says that since the water levels have gradually receded they have high hopes that the birds will regain enough space.    

Charles Tebasulwa, the Chairperson of the Association of Fishers and Lake Users of Uganda -AFALU at Musambwa Island, say the floods forced them into the dry breeding areas for survival.   

Tebasulwa further says that the situation is slowly normalizing and the resident fishermen are complying with the conservation guidelines to preserve the birds and their space. 

  The bird census conducted by Nature Uganda in January 2020, indicated the number of grey-headed gulls standing at 100,000 individuals while the breeding pairs keep fluctuating between 30,000 and 50,000 pairs.   

There are mainly two populations of grey-headed gulls namely; the resident, which do not migrate, and those that migrate to Asia or Europe and return during winter.   

During the migration season i.e. from October to February of every year, the numbers tend to be high but they reduce after March when the migrant group has left the country.

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