In the Greater Masaka Sub Region, police are actively seeking farmers suspected of causing the death of 11 grey-crested cranes and injuring another eight.
The tragic event unfolded in the villages of Kikonge and Nabyewanga, located in the Nkoni Sub County of Lwengo District. Unidentified farmers cultivating rice and maize in the wetlands allegedly poisoned the endangered birds, resulting in the immediate death of 11 cranes.
The International Crane Foundation (ICF) recently conducted a study in Lwengo, discovering a population of 1,359 grey-crested cranes in the district. The recent incident has sadly reduced this number to 1,348.
Mr. Gilbert Tayebwa, the African Crane Conservation Programme Officer at ICF, revealed that they were informed of the incident by the local wetland teams that have been established to help preserve the bird populations.
In addition to the cranes, the poison also had a lethal effect on yellow-billed ducks that reportedly consumed the tainted rice grains. This species is also among the most endangered.
\”We were able to recover 11 crane carcasses from a rice field in the wetland. However, we were unable to retrieve the other 8 injured cranes that were seen flying erratically towards the deeper waters, showing signs of poison\’s impact,\” Tayebwa said.
Tayebwa further stated that they collected empty pesticide containers from the scene for further analysis to determine the nature of the poison.
“We managed to decontaminate the scene to avoid further poisoning of the birds as we continue to monitor the wetlands and engage locals to desist from acts of beating, poisoning, and killing of grey crested cranes that use the wetlands as their habitats,” he added.
The grey-crested crane, also known as the crested crane, holds a special place in Uganda\’s national identity, featuring prominently on the nation\’s flag and coat of arms. Despite its iconic status and aesthetic appeal, this bird is facing the risk of extinction.
The Southern Regional Police spokesperson, Mr. Twaha Kasirye, stated that the birds suffered heart damage after ingesting the suspected poisoned rice grains.
Kasirye also issued a warning to the public against invading wetlands and causing harm to wildlife, stating that such actions could lead to arrest and legal prosecution.