News of the death of an Uganda Wildlife Education Center Lion came ploughing through the online streets like a wildfire. It started as a rumor that would soon be confirmed by a statement put out by UWEC itself.
“Uganda Wild Life Authority with deep sorrow announces the death of Letaba, one of her male lions, aged 10years- that passed on 13th September at 9:00 am,” it began before the narration of what happened unfolded.
Apparently, it started when the authorities travelled to Fortportal on a sensitization trip during Toro Kingdom’s cultural celebrations dubbed Empango. On their way back, in a bid to avoid a collision, their truck swerved and the animal crates collided somewhere allowing the lion to escape into the animal farm in Mubende district’s Kalenga village. Immediately, a search was mounted only to find the lion now fully charged.
They wrote: “The Lion was later cited in the community at around 7:00 am highly charged and had already killed 3 pigs and injured 1 cow. The veterinary doctor tried to dart him in vain and since he had already become highly agitated, dangerous, and threatening human life, a painful decision was made after consultation to put him out of action at 9:00 am.
While many Ugandans understood and were quick to pass their sympathies, many more thought UWEC should have done better. One Kate Walugembe implored UWEC to stop transporting the animals at such great risk to them. “Please reconsider making them a spectacle. Leave them be in their home at UWEC,” she wrote. “It is not his fault he escaped and he only did the natural thing to hunt!”
She went on to suggest that putting an end to the transportation of these animals be put before the board. “They can be viewed in safety from Entebbe. The travel is a stress to them,” she further wrote before giving a suggestion. “Let his death not be in vain, let it bring positive change!”
Journalist and wildlife enthusiast, Rafsanjan Abbey couldn’t hide his disappointment. He wrote: “Efforts to dart him failed,” but they effortlessly shot him dead?! Crap! Yes, I genuinely applaud UWEC for this bold statement and am super happy that no human life was lost in this tragedy. But we still lost Letaba. A male adult LION! A lion we begged SA to give us following the demise of alpha male Kibonge.”
Abbey lamented about how at 10 years, Letaba shouldn’t have been on such trips. “Take cubs for these roadshows; if people want to see the big ones, then they should come to the zoo or better still visit the game parks,” he wrote. “How people in Fort Portal (a stone-throw away from wild lions in Queen Elizabeth National Park) would eagerly and excitedly wait to see a caged one from Entebbe just beats my understanding.”
Though this particular death stung, the UWEC officials were quick to console the public. They wrote thusly: “The good news is that Letaba sired offsprings whom he leaves behind, including a son, so his legacy lives on.”