Impact of human activities and veterinary interventions on the welfare of free-living wild animals in Queen Elizabeth National Park
Masia, Nancy Mercy
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Human activities in protected areas have long been associated with negative effects on the demographic characteristics of the predator-prey biosphere, with scarce information categorising their effects on the wellbeing of individual animals. The currently growing emphasis on animal welfare is also focused on domesticated animals and captive wildlife, with far less attention paid to the wellbeing of free-living wild animals; furthermore, methods for gathering data that can be used to assess the welfare of free-living wild animals have not been extensively characterised. The objectives of this study were to (1) identify common anthropogenic practices and their effects on the welfare of free-living wild animals in Queen Elizabeth National Park (QENP) and (2) identify the benefits and gaps in the currently existing and available animal interventions. The study design was cross-sectional, involving the questionnaire administered through interviews with the help of data collection software, Kobo toolbox. Interviews were conducted with QENP staff and respondents from QENP village enclaves, namely Kasenyi, Hamkungu, and Katunguru. Analysis of occurrences of human activities in question showed human wildlife conflicts at 63% as the major threat resulting from likelihood and/or recorded attack on residents at 66.2% and their livestock at 54.1%. The biggest threats to the welfare of affected animals under HWC were the magnitude of occurrence (65.4%); poaching was non-specificity of the poaching gears (47.4%); habitat encroachment, the magnitude standing at 52.6%; and for interventions, the length of interventions (34.8%). The largest percentage (74.4%) of respondents had heard of the term animal welfare, of whom 67.7% were aware of the requirements or needs of animals in regards to the five animal freedoms; however, 51.1% of the respondents seemed to think these needs werent important for free-living wild animals. All respondents in the category of animal handlers expressed concern over a number of challenges encountered during active interventions that end up translating into animal welfare threats along their course of work. 34.8% described the shortage of well-trained human labour to handle animals as a major challenge, and the length of interventions (34.8%). In conclusion, human activities namely HWC, Habitat encroachment, poaching and veterinary interventions requiring physical handling of wildlife do have effect on the wellbeing of free-living wild animals and there need to include welfare concept in free living wild life in management and academia.