Since my return to MFNP I have been desperately searching for the old boy. Why have I been consumed by this preoccupation of finding Butcherman? Why have I found this to be an emotional pursuit? These are good questions that I have been pondering as my ability to locate Butcherman has waned. The answer is pretty simple: Butcherman and I came up at about the same time.
You see, I was part of the first response team that found Butcherman, an alpha for just 7 months at that point, in the snare which claimed his lower left leg. I was part of the team that brought his excruciating agony to an end when we conducted that amputation. I was part of the team that enabled Butcherman to make a fantastic recovery where he somehow managed to rule over the Delta Pride for a further 3 years post-surgery. To put it succinctly: Butcherman would not have been… without the small contribution that I provided. But to be honest with you, Butcherman played much the same role for me. I would not be me without Butcherman.
At RECaP we are officially launching our “Snares to Wares” initiative. For the past 7 years I have been working with Lost Boys, those individuals recruited into the poaching trade at very impressionable ages, to find alternative ways to make a living. I have been working to convert these boys from Lost Boys to Crafts Boys centered in the village of Pakwatch. Prioritizing the targeted removal of snares from MFNP via the most cutting-edge science, we supply these craftsmakers with disused wire snare which they capably convert to wares for sale in the market. We are launching this initiative with brand new spirit. The UWA rangers and other senior staff as well as the local hoteliers are ready to participate in this effort to get snares our of MFNP region for good.
This trip has also awakened in me the need to have a long-term and uninterrupted lion monitoring project in the MFNP so as to quickly determine threats to lions and devise mitigation measures. How else can we determine whether our Snares to Wares initiative is being successful? The lost boys of Pakwach mentioned of need to establish a steady market for their wares. We need to get these wire sculptures of lions, giraffes, and elephants in front of people who would like to buy them. Without a market for the wares, we will have failed to complete the circle in the conversion of a deadly snare into art. In this way art may be imitating life, but life is dependent upon art. Also, the initiative would then provide alternative income to the reformed boys, giving value to the conservation of wildlife via wire snare removal, and reducing the likelihood that these wires would be used to capture wildlife.
I return to East Lansing to share with the rest of Spartan Nation the challenges of wildlife conservation in this iconic African national park. Spartans Will! Snaring is but one of the challenges that Spartans are best suited to confront. I am therefore confident that my next trip to Uganda (starting in May of this year) will involve the application of practical solutions that will enable me to not only tell my children bed time stories of Butcherman, but to show them what Butcherman’s sons, daughters, and grandchildren are now getting up to in Murchison Falls National Park: my own backyard.