In Rakai District, residents living near Lake Kacheera have requested the government to establish boundaries to prevent hippos from entering their farms and homes. These stray hippos have been causing damage by destroying crops such as sweet potatoes, maize, groundnuts, beans, cassava, and banana plantations. They have also posed a threat to human and livestock lives.
In the past month alone, five cows and three pigs have been killed by these marauding hippos. Villages such as Byakyishana, Kabumba, Katerengyeza, Kyigando, Katete, Katenga, and Nyamunengo have been the most affected.
Mr. Herbert Tayebwa, a resident of Byakyishana Village, expressed his concerns after losing his cattle to the hippos. He mentioned that the fear of keeping domestic animals has gripped the community due to these attacks.
Ms. Miriam Tushemerairwe, another resident from Byakyishana Village, emphasized the threat posed by hippos to their lives, as children can no longer safely fetch water from the lake. The destruction of their gardens, their primary source of livelihood, has also made it difficult for them to afford school fees, leaving their children out of school.
The Chairperson of Kacheera Sub County, Mr. Robert Tukwatanise, called on the government to consider revising its tourism policies and commit to compensating residents for losses caused by wild animals. He stressed the urgency of government intervention to prevent starvation among the affected citizens.
Mr. Bashir Hangi, the Manager of Communications at Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), suggested that boundary demarcations may not be a complete solution. Instead, he advised residents near the lake to avoid using the affected areas, as hippos tend to stay closer to the shores to nurse their newborns.
Mr. Hangi also cited examples of residents living around Lake Katwe and Queen Elizabeth National Park, who have learned to coexist peacefully with wild animals by adopting such measures.
Conservationists point out that hippos are Africa’s most dangerous large game, responsible for more annual human fatalities than other predators such as crocodiles and lions.
For several years, stray hippos have been causing havoc in Kagamba, Kacheera, and Ddwaniro sub-counties in Rakai District, resulting in loss of human lives, livestock, and extensive crop damage. This has led to food scarcity and poverty in the affected communities.
In the past, there have been tragic incidents related to hippo encounters, including a 2011 incident in which four people, including a toddler, drowned in Lake Kijanebalora after their boat was hit by a hippopotamus. In 2013, hippos killed five people in the neighboring Lyantonde District, including three children and two adults from Rwamawungu Village in Kabula-County.