NatureUganda condemns killing of Kampala’s scavenging storks
Marabou Stork Leptoptilos crumeniferus nestlings were left to die in the sun on traffic islands in the heart of Kampala, after the city council chose the peak of the stork’s breeding season to cut down their nesting trees.
Council workers had been instructed to cut down trees near electricity lines. But according to Achilles Byaruhanga, Executive Director of NatureUganda (BirdLife in Uganda), the action breached the city’s own environmental guidelines. “Kampala City Council has an environmental officer who should have advised them on the right time to cut the trees. They should have waited until their chicks had grown.”
The Marabou Storks began nesting in large numbers in Kampala, after a near 20-fold growth in the city’s population over four decades combined with rising levels of affluence to overwhelm the city’s rubbish collection services. In 2004, City Engineer Abraham Byandala told The EastAfrican that only 30 percent of the city’s rubbish is collected.
"All conservation loving Ugandans should condemn this act.” —Achilles Byaruhanga, Executive Director of NatureUganda
In the 1990s, a campaign to poison the storks was halted after a public outcry. In his 2004 interview, Mr Byandala told the The EastAfrican that if City Hall had the means, it would have “broken their breeding cycle by disrupting their nesting season”.
Whether or not this was the city council’s intention, Achilles Byaruhanga says that because it is now the peak of the breeding season for Marabous, “the actions could devastate the storks’ breeding success”.
Conservationists point out that the scavenging storks are helping the city deal with its rubbish problems. While not universally loved either by city residents or visitors, they are also a tourist attraction. Achilles Byaruhanga says tourism is the second highest foreign exchange earner in Uganda, and having 200 bird species in the city centre is a huge opportunity for Uganda’s tourism industry.
Achilles Byaruhanga says the birds will leave only when the city improves its refuse collection services, taking up residence instead around dumps on the outskirts, where they will continue to perform a valuable scavenging role. “But according to the state of affairs today in the country and in the city, this may take very many years to come. In the meantime, the city council must not act irresponsibly and unprofessionally.