Mammals’ Population Abundance and Distribution Post Oil and Gas Exploration in Murchison Falls National Park, Uganda
The international oil companies completed the exploration phase and are now headed to exploitation of the oil resources. Oil developments present challenges in wildlife conservation and management especially to territorial mammals. These challenges may include animal avoidance, animal displacement and increase in mortality rate due to road kills. This is due to oil pad construction, running machinery and increased human footprint in the animals’ habitats. We aimed to determine if the exploration phase which was completed five years ago had an effect on the population, abundance and distribution of different key mammal species such as Oribi, Uganda Kob, Cape Buffalo, Jackson's Hartebeest, African Elephant, Warthog, and Rothschild Giraffe. Indirect and direct mammal counts were conducted by walking a 2 km transect while recording physical mammals, footprints, fecal pallets, wallowing grounds, animal trails and kobleks. The study used four transects for each oil pad site and control area for the periods of wet and dry seasons. Data was log transformed and treated under t statistical tests to compare the mean population per distance in oil pads and control areas using SPSS version 20. The collected data per distance interval were treated under chi-square tests to determine the significance levels of mammal’s distribution. The results showed no significant difference between oil pads and control areas (t= 0.920, d. f = 27, p = 0.365). We also recorded a no significant difference in the mammal’s distribution (c2 = 7.81, d.f = 3, p > 0.05). We also recorded presence of mammals in the former oil pad habitats. The study observed exploration infrastructure such as placards, boreholes and access roads still exist in the former oil pad sites. Overall, we concluded that the animals have returned to the former oil pads in big numbers. However, the study could not justify the absence of giraffes in the study sites.
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