Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management

Committee Chair/Advisor

Dr. Elizabeth Baldwin

Committee Member

Dr. Aby Sene- Harper

Committee Member

Dr. Charles Chancellor

Committee Member

Dr. Joseph Drew Lanham


Wildlife poaching is a critical global issue that poses significant threats to biodiversity, ecological balance, and the long-term sustainability of wildlife in Sub-Saharan Africa. The illicit trade in wildlife and their derivatives continues to grow, fueled by various socio-economic, cultural, and environmental factors. As the demand for wildlife products persists, it is imperative to understand the underlying causes, impacts, and potential solutions to combat this detrimental practice.

This research examined the dimensions of wildlife poaching in and around the area of Murchison Falls National Park in Uganda, the largest and oldest National Park in Uganda. Uganda has experienced success in reversing the loss of many iconic species like elephants and buffalo, as well as lesser-known species like the hartebeest. The attention and effort placed on wildlife protection makes this an excellent place to focus on the ways the country is still experiencing stress on wildlife to shed light on its complex interplay with poverty, human-wildlife conflict, commercial interests, and cultural beliefs.

Data for this research came from documents and literature, field experience in Uganda, especially in and around villages adjacent to Murchison Falls National Park and interviews. The primary data collection was from interviews (IRB Exempt under Category 2 in accordance with federal regulations 45 CFR. 104(d), January 2019), with 26 participants (N=26), comprising of wildlife conservation managers with expertise in the field, members of Non-Governmental Organizations closely collaborating with Murchison Falls National Park authorities, as well as local community leaders and influential members residing near the national park. These took place in February of 2019, and follow up interviews in July of 2023.

Murchison Falls National Park is bordered by three districts on its southern bank, namely Buliisa, Masindi, and Kiryandongo. On its northern bank, three districts also adjoin the park, namely Nwoya, Oryam, and Packwach. Local community leaders and key members were interviewed within their respective areas of residence, which included six villages: Latoro, Layelle, Lagagaji, and Paraa in Nwoya district, as well as Muvule and Mubako villages in Buliisa district. Members of Non-Governmental Organizations were interviewed in Pakwach district and Kampala city, where they actively engage in conservation and community-related initiatives. The wildlife conservation managers, who play a critical role in park management, were interviewed both in Kampala city and at the park headquarters located in Buliisa district.

The findings of this research indicate that socio-economic challenges create an environment where individuals resort to poaching as a means of survival. The local communities residing in the vicinity of the park have a deep-rooted cultural attachment to the area, considering it an integral part of their heritage. The data also highlights the growing influence of profit-seeking activities within the realm of poaching, amplifying the need for targeted interventions that address the changing dynamics of illegal wildlife trade. The findings from the interviews help break down the motivation for poaching in the area in order to examine ways to adapt to solutions.

This park serves as a crucial provider of tourism-related wildlife services, playing a vital role in generating revenue for both park management and the local economy. Recognizing the economic significance of the park reinforces the importance of sustainable conservation practices that foster both environmental protection and economic benefits for local communities. The park management continues to address these multifaceted challenges, which may include habitat degradation, encroachment, wildlife crimes, and conflicts between human activities and conservation goals. Ongoing adaptability is key to ensuring the long-term preservation of the park's unique biodiversity. The active involvement and engagement of local communities have become increasingly critical in managing the conservation of the park. Recognizing the intrinsic value of local knowledge and experiences, community participation enables more effective and inclusive conservation strategies that align with the needs and aspirations of the people living in close proximity to the park. The recent discovery of oil within this expansive protected area represents a novel development in Uganda. This discovery has introduced a complex interplay between economic development, livelihood needs, and conservation management. This data is about a poaching in a specific place, but many of the findings are relevant to other locations. By breaking down any unwanted activity into its parts in order to understand it and the pathways to understanding motivations, leverage points, then the ways to adapt to changes may become clear as it has in this research.



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