Dr. Gerald Eilu, a Forest Biology and Ecosystems Management lecturer at Makerere University says that it is wrong for the university management to cut the trees especially during the breeding season for the birds.
Environmentalists have protested against the cutting of trees at
The action by the university estates department on Thursday and Friday has left
hundreds of birds ranging from cattle eaglets locally known as Enyange
and Marabou stocks (Kalooli) dead while others displaced.
Some of the trees cut were at the former Faculty of Arts where some of the
branches that were providing shade.
Dr. Gerald Eilu, a Forest Biology and Ecosystems Management lecturer at Makerere
University says that it is wrong for the university management to cut the trees
especially during the breeding season for the birds.
He argues that ecological studies have already been done to ascertain when the
birds are breeding, which he says university authorities should have considered
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Currently, cattle eaglets and marabous are predominantly breeding on trees on
Makerere Main Campus trees. The breeding season for the birds, according to Dr.
Eilu coincides with the grasshoppers, which form part of their food.
“I think the nesting here on campus is because I mean it’s one of the refuges
that they can find some protection. Out there, the environment is quite
hostile. It’s unfortunate that even here, the poor birds are experiencing such
injustice,” Dr. Eilu said on Friday.
The cattle eaglets have built colonies on trees where there are marabous. Dr.
Eilu explains that this could be for protection.
“Certainly, Marabous have chosen some of the most suitable trees for nesting
but when these smaller ones the cattle eaglets are also nesting in the same
trees, then they are afforded some protection because they wouldn’t be at a
very big risk by the birds of prey and other enemies,” Dr. Eilu explains.
Dr. Eilu wants management and ecologists to work hand to ensure improved
interrelationships between organisms and their environments.
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Associate Professor Edward Nector Mwavu, the newly elected Head of Department
of Forestry, Bio-Diversity and Tourism said some of the things that were done
at Makerere makes them ashamed as trainers of environmental conservation.
“Makerere where you have a diversity of disciplines and we are also signatories
of various international covenants on biodiversity, we would not be seen
butchering birds like this. If we feel that these birds are perhaps a menace,
we would seek for relocation rather than killing them,” Professor Mwavu says.
He argues that the two birds that have largely experienced the wrath of pruning
are beneficial to the environment. He argues for instance that marabous eat
solid waste aiding in cleaning the community while the cattle eaglets help in
controlling pests on livestock.
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Professor Mwavu says some of the actions are done without consultations.
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Dr Paddy Musana, from the Makerere Religion and Peace Studies department says
they called for the pruning of the trees because the birds had littered the
entire place causing a foul smell.
He argues that sometimes bird droppings fall on community members while
walking. While he sympathizes with birds and conservationists’ arguments, he
says the way pruning is done should be a concern of the conservationists.
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According to a 2017 study by Professors Michael Kibuule and Derek Pomeroy from
Makerere’s Department of Zoology whose findings were published in Ostrich,
a Journal of African Ornithology, several thousand birds start breeding each
season around November.
Research also shows that traditionally, a bird of savannahs, breeding and
growing young birds are timed in the nest during the December to February, a
drier period, when food for scavengers is expected to be more abundant.
Dr. Musana argues that technical people in ecology should always guide
management in understanding the behaviour of the birds especially their time of
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The breeding population of Marabou Stocks has increased in Kampala, from 11
pairs in 1969 to more than 1,200 breeding pairs as of 2016 according to the
But this is not the first time, Makerere is at conflict with ecologists over
the birds. In 2014, university authorities cut down several trees citing they
had out-lived their usefulness, hence posing danger to the buildings.