Thousands of visitors from all walks of life last week thronged the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) stand in the Buganda King's palace, Lubiri Mengo in Kampala to learn about the unique eco- tourism products offered by the conservation agency in the country's different national parks.
Uganda Wildlife Authority on June 27, 2012 commissioned a shorter version of the Batwa Cultural Experience Trail in Mgahinga National Park, south western Uganda, which will offer tourists a chance walk through the cultural sites and footsteps of the first forest people.
The revamped trail leading to the famed Garama cave an over 200 meter long lava tube which served as council chambers, residence, stores and armory for the last king of Batwa was made possible with the support from US Mission in Uganda trough USAID which has invested $31,000 to train Batwa people to serve as guides and improve lighting, walkways an shelters along the trail. These new features are expected to add $12,500 a year to the tourism revenue with 50% of it going to approximately local residents.
Presiding at the official launch of the shorter trail, the Uganda minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Heritage Professor Ephraim Kamuntu could not hide his excitement by remarking that "the tourism product is unique, rare and the only one of its kind and whoever experiences it should share the memories with the rest of the world"
Professor Kamuntu who walked the entire 5.6km trail trough the dense forests of Muhabura ranges hosting troops of Golden monkeys and mountain gorillas, also observed that the product is an epitome of conservation in its original form. It is a bridge between the past, present and the future".
The minister, flanked by the USAID acting Mission Director, John Mark Winfield, was particularly impressed by Batwa demonstrations on old methods of making fire by rubbing two dry sticks against each other, harvesting of honey using smoke, fetching water using bamboo tubes among others. He however urged the Batwa community not to remain living in the past by making efforts to educate their children to discern myths from reality using modern science.
"Do not be prisoners of your past—balance between continuity and change as there is no culture that can survive without merging with modern trends," he challenged the Batwa community.
Mr. Winfield the acting USAID Mission director said Uganda was blessed with amazing natural resources and attractions which should be made known to the rest of the world. He said the American people were proud to be associated with this development that promotes tourism while preserving the culture and improving the community livelihood.
He added "Through our partnership with the ministry of Tourism and Uganda Wildlife Authority, we are in a unique position to help preserve the natural beauty of this country while supporting the tourism industry so vital to Uganda's development. We hope the new additions to the trail will attract more tourists to the park ad give Uganda a competitive edge in the global market."
Mr. Stephen Masaba, the acting Director Tourism and Business Services who represented the Uganda Wildlife Authority Executive Director, Dr. Andrew Seguya, said the new product was in line with the organization's strategy of diversifying tourism products to attract more visitors to the protected areas and keeping them longer. He hailed the partnership between UWA, Kisoro District Local Government and the United Organization for the Batwa Development in Uganda (UOBDU) saying it has greatly reduced the Human-Wildlife Conflict in the region. He also urged the international community to enjoy other tourism products offered by the Mgahinga National Park including the volcanoes hiking, Golden Monkey tracking, Gorilla Tracking, Forest Walk and caving.
Earlier, the manager Bwindi-Mgahinga Conservation Area (BMCA) Mr. Pontious Ezuma, gave the chronological background of the Batwa Trail development, the revenue sharing arrangements and the role of partners In maintaining the new product.
It is with great sadness that UWA management announces the demise of Ruhondeza the oldest gorilla silverback and leader of the first habituated tourism gorilla family in Uganda – Mubare in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (BINP). He succumbed to death yesterday afternoon after a four month spell in solitary life. Ruhondenza as he is fondly known died at over 50 years of age in his nest in Rubona village, neighbouring the park.
Mt. Elgon is a home to over 300 species of birds, of which the endangered Lammergeyer is among, small antelopes, forest monkeys, elephants and buffalos. Its higher slopes are protected by national parks in Uganda and Kenya, creating an extensive trans-boundary conservation area, which has been declared by UNESCO as a Man & Biosphere Reserve.
UWA has embarked on a 10 day technical training for 209 Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) front desk Customs Officials in operational areas of Malaba, Busia and Entebbe Airport. The customs officials are being trained on necessary skills to identify wild fauna and genuine wildlife permits, understanding operational procedures for activities to curb illegal trade and develop an effective system of case referrals.
A total of 43 baby pythons aged just about three weeks were rescued from a village Mbizzi NNya in Mpigi District about 50kms from Kampala.
The UWA problem animal team was tipped off by a report on a local television, which alleged that the pythons were construed to be evil spirits by the community members. However, this is a normal ecological phenomenon which should not be spiritualized.
Life gradually returns to normal after the Ntungwa -Ishasha Bridge at the Rukungiri- Kanungu district borderline was re-opened by the Kanungu RDC for traffic Canon Benon Bwagi Ruronga. A heavy truck loaded with cement enroute to DR Congo had earlier collapsed the weak bridge bringing the entire channel down into the river. The broken bridge had rendered the road impassable for about two months bringing activities on this busy route to an abrupt halt. Traffic had been diverted to a much further and hard to reach Kihihi- Nyamirama road via the Kigezi wildlife reserve to Katunguru which was a huge burden for tourists travel.
Uganda Wildlife Authority led by the planning unit has embarked on the process of preparing a new five -year Strategic plan since the current one expires at the end of this year
According to the acting Chief Conservation Area Manager (CCAM) Mr. Charles Tumwesigye, the process is facilitated by the Planning Unit.
Uganda Wildlife Authority and their partners, USAID-STAR Project on Wednesday launched the latest state of the art wildlife portal featuring all the 10 national parks, game reserves and activities UWA is undertaking to preserve Uganda’s precious wildlife and protected areas.
Uganda’s Prime Minister Mr. Amama Mbabazi who presided over the launch at the prestigious Kampala Serena Hotel remarked that “the new website portal could not have come at a better time than now when we are celebrating key milestones in the tourism sector and enjoying international accolades from reputable international institutions such as Lonely Planet, National Geographic and New York Times”.