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from Planet Ark/Reuters


Ugandan officials slaughter man-eating crocodiles

KAMPALA - Ugandan officials have killed four crocodiles blamed for killing at least 40 people after an outcry from frightened villagers, the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) said yesterday.

March 26, 2002

The UWA sent a four-man patrol armed with semi-automatic rifles to hunt down the man-eaters who attacked residents collecting water or fishing along the shores of Lake Victoria in the past seven months.

"We have killed four crocodiles and we think we have managed to get the animals that have been eating people," UWA Director of Field Operations Arthur Mugisha told Reuters.

The UWA, under fire from residents who accuse it of putting animal safety above that of people, said the crocodile attacks happened when settlements encroached deeper into areas populated by the giant reptiles.

"These crocodiles only attack people when they go to fetch water or fish in areas previously occupied by crocodiles only," Mugisha said.

"The government should look into providing water points and designated fishing sites so that people do not interfere with the crocodile areas."

Crocodile attacks are fairly common in east Africa. The body of a young British woman bearing a bite mark was recovered from a Kenyan lake earlier in March.

Mugisha said there were about 100 crocodiles on Uganda's portion of Lake Victoria, Africa's biggest fresh water lake, which Kenya and Tanzania also share.

The UWA, an arm of the Ugandan government, aims to help villagers co-exist with wild animals by promoting benefits such as potential income from tourism or the sale of crocodile hides and eggs.

"Once wildlife's economic potential is appreciated it will go a long way towards changing people's attitudes," Mugisha said. "Right now if nothing is done the crocodiles will be killed off."

© 2002 Reuters Limited

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