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image captionA resting lion… The lions at this park are known for their ability to climb trees

Six lions have been found dead and dismembered after a suspected poisoning in one of Uganda’s most famous parks.

The lions were found in Queen Elizabeth National Park with their heads and paws hacked off, and their bodies surrounded by dead vultures, officials said.

The Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) said it “cannot rule out illegal wildlife trafficking”.

An investigation has now been launched, with conservationists working with local police at the scene.

These particular lions are known for their unique ability to climb trees.

In a statement, UWA’s communications manager Bashir Hangi said they were “saddened” by the killings.

He added that nature tourism is an important part of Uganda’s economy, contributing about 10% of its GDP, and plays a vital role in the conservation of animals.

“UWA strongly condemns the illegal killing of wildlife because it does not only impact negatively on our tourism as a country, but also revenue generation, which supports conservation and community work in our protected areas,” he said.

There have been a number of previous incidents where lions in Queen Elizabeth National Park were believed to have been poisoned.

In April 2018, 11 lions – including eight cubs – were found dead after a suspected poisoning. A similar incident led to the deaths of five lions in May 2010.

media captionIn 2018, the BBC looked at why lions were being poisoned in Uganda