A multimedia explanatory story project incorporating text, photographs, map and interactive info-graphics. It explains in detail persistent nature of poaching of hippopotamuses at Uganda’s Murchison Falls National Park, the drivers of the illegal activity, how they transact the trade in wildlife parts, how the Uganda Wildlife Authority and Uganda Police are struggling to combat poaching. The story also explains the community-wildlife conflict and how the government was failing to adequately address community concerns, examines the solutions and their short comings.
Following the publication, the Uganda Wildlife Authority moved in to compensate victims of hippopotamus attacks and introduced a better rewards programme whereby they are now giving cows instead of goats for people who denounce poaching.
Flourish Studio data tools were used to create interactive visualizations Google documents were especially useful in the drafting and presentation of the article. Local interpreters played invaluable role in identifying and fixing interviews with hostile and often suspicious poachers and traders of game meat. I used mobile phones to take photographs and record audios to avoid hostile response from poachers and community members who were not willing to be photographed or recorded. Data scraping to gain past literature on wildlife trade and Murchison Falls National Park ecosystem.
What was the hardest part of this project?
Tracking poachers and convincing them to accept to be interviewed proved very difficult due to fear of being exposed. The wildlife authority officers were unwilling to share data citing bureaucracy; police kept dodging due to fear of being targeted by poachers through witchcraft.
What can others learn from this project?
It is possible to create interesting stories out of less popular and often neglected topics such as hippopotamus conservation and poaching in remote areas. It is also possible to track and find data that can support news reporting with scientific evidence especially if the data is presented and analyzed in simple and understandable format. Journalists also learn that geojournalism and data journalism expand the scope of innovative storytelling. And finally this project underscores the importance of mentorship in advancing the skills, a role played by editors from Internew’s Earth Journalism Network and the Kigezi News Agency managing editor.