Monday, April 19We Break the News

UGANDA: Government in a panic as locusts takeover Kidepo national park.

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Government has stayed away from spraying swarms of desert locusts that have invaded Kidepo National Park for fear of antagonising wild animals.
Addressing journalists at the media centre in Kampala yesterday, the minister for Agriculture, Mr Vincent Ssempijja, said whereas the chemical used to spray the locusts has no effect on people and domestic animals, they are not sure how wild animals will react to the invasion.

“Other swarms have camped in the national park and we cannot spray them because it may affect tourism and experts have warned us against it,” Mr Ssempijja said.
“They (locusts) have camped in the valley where buffaloes breed, and you know these animals have not been violent towards people and tourists but if we spray them, they may react violently. Experts are on ground to establish how we can handle that,” he added.
The minister revealed that they are in discussions with the Uganda Wildlife Authority to begin mapping out areas invaded by locusts in the national park for targeted control.
“This is in line with the preservation of the eco system in the national park,” he said.

Government has been using both ground and aerial spraying against the deadly insects that have spread to about 24 districts countrywide.
The minister revealed that efforts are now being directed at identifying areas where the locusts laid eggs to prepare to tackle the nymphs, which are expected to cause more destruction as the planting season commences.
“Whereas we may not have seen hoppers hatching yet, we are reminded that locust eggs remain in the ground for long periods until the weather becomes conducive for them to hatch. As such, vigilance must be exercised at all times in areas where the mature locusts have been and this is what the surveillance teams are doing,” Mr Ssempijja said.

Mr Pius Wakabi, the ministry’s permanent secretary, said: “The war on the nymphs will even be harder than what we are doing today because they will be many and they eat a lot. In fact the experts and the scientist have advised us not to spray the adult locusts because it is so expensive.”
He added: “The problem we cannot tell how much it is going to cost because we do not know how many swarms are coming in, we do not know how many eggs are being laid. And as you may know, the areas we are talking about are very vast; one swarm can cover the entire district.”

The minister also said they are expecting government to release more funds. The United Nations, World Bank, Africa Development Bank and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have also pledged funds to be used in the fight against the desert locusts.
Mr Ssempijja said the control efforts are also being stifled by limited manpower and the rough terrain, the migratory nature of the insects and the spill over from Kenya.

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