Believe it or not there is a serious debate raging in Uganda…over Louisiana red swamp crayfish. The beautiful Lake Bunyonyi (or ‘Place of many little birds’) in south-western Uganda was one of the African sites for an interesting experiment: introduction of the critters from Louisiana. Crayfish are not native to the African continent, nor are they part of traditional diets, so they were not necessarily a welcome addition to the ecosystem.
A Tourist Treat, A Local Nightmare?
It seems the crayfish quite like it in Africa because they multiplied like crazy. In the Lake Bunyonyi area they actually left the locals a little overwhelmed. As they aren’t part of the traditional diet, they were originally just seen as a nuisance & only used as an abundant source of livestock feed or fish bait.
Things began to change when a scene from Lord of the Rings was filmed around the lovely lake which attracted tourists who do like to eat crayfish. Suddenly the little pest became an easy source of income for local people & businesses.
Sadly, the Louisiana red swamp crayfish is known as an invasive & destructive species worldwide. Even in native areas they are responsible for damage to levees, dams & other water structures. As the crayfish thrived in Lake Bunyonyi they began to affect an ancient ecologic system, moving into streams, wetlands & farmland – affecting crop yields drastically.
Farmers complain that they make holes in the fields, eat plant roots, spread a particularly nasty fungus which destroys young crops & bore through earthen fish ponds causing leaks. In fact, government appeals have even been made to help control the invasion.
Finding a Solution
It’s not the first invasive species to affect an ecosystem & likely not the last. Hopefully a useful solution will be found to control the population soon. In the meantime, if crayfish is your thing come to Uganda & check out Lake Bunyonyi, they could use your services!