Eighty participants drawn from Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania early this week completed an intensive three week tour guiding course aimed at enhancing their skills in conservation, wildlife identification and interpretation as well as customer care.
Forty nine of the participants who passed out on November 13, 2011 at the Makerere University Biological Field Station, Kyanyawara in Kibale National Park, Kabarole district were drawn from all the seven Conservation areas under the management of Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA).
Through the “Third Country Training Program (TCTP), Malaysia is sharing their experiences on management of biodiversity and ecosystem.
The third country training program was conducted at the University of Malaysia Sabah (UMS) in the institute of Tropical Biology Conservation (ITBC) between 4th- 27th October 2011.
Representatives from 8 countries including Uganda attended the course. Other countries were Thailand, India, Brunei, Myanmar, Indonesia, Mali and Tanzania.
Uganda was represented by four officers and Justine Namara, the Senior Planning and EIA Officer, represented Uganda Wildlife Authority.
The Great Virunga Trans-boundary Core Secretariat (GVTCS) has revealed that it has set aside money to construct five more tanks neighboring sub-counties of Mgahinga to curb the water scarcity in the area. This was revealed by the Executive Secretary of GVTCS Mr. Sam Mwadha at the commissioning of four water tanks constructed in the sub- counties of Muramba and Nyarusiza in Kisoro district to reduce water scarcity in the villages adjacent to park. The tanks were launched by the Ag.Executive Director UWA Dr. Andrew Seguya on behalf of the secretariat.
In an effort to help conservationists understand population dynamics of the gorillas, assess the success of conservation programmes aimed at ensuring their survival, and ensure that they receive continued attention from the global conservation community; Uganda Wildlife Authority together with partners is carrying out a gorilla census in Bwindi National Park.
This is the fourth time the census is being carried out in Bwind which is also a UNESCO designated world heritage site. The first time the Census was carried out, in 1997, it was estimated that there were 300 individual gorillas.
The 2011 Gorilla census that began in September is expected to end by October 22nd and besides finding out the population of the endangered Mountain Gorillas, the team in charge of the census is also collecting information on the status of other wildlife like Elephants, Bush Pigs, Monkeys and Duikers, they are also taking records of evidence of illegal activities that affect the flora and fauna.
The combined team of parners and UWA staff that has been combing the thick forests and steep ridges of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park during a mountain gorilla census are expected to wind up their exercise on October 22.
Uganda Wild Authority (UWA) acting Executive Director Dr. Andrew Seguya is expected to join his colleagues from the IGCP, ITFC, CTPH and Marx Planks Institute to mark the formal end of the exercise meant to determine the current population of the gorillas in Bwindi .
Bwindi impenetrable National Park is known to have more than half of the world’s mountain gorillas. The Teams comprising of rangers and wardens from the three countries from Uganda, Rwanda and Congo have taken part in the massive exercise which comes at the heels of a similar recent one in the Greater Virunga massif.
IGCP and Marx planks have been the key sponsors of this year’s census which has spanned close to six weeks. Key amongthe activities during the census have been gorilla data collection, sample collection, GPS, and mapping among others.
Unlike the previous censuses, this particular year has been singled out as going as one of the toughest given the timing in the park. September has always been a peak rain season for Bwindi which has been very challenging for the participants having to camp in the forest.
The time for releasing and ascertaining the results from the exercise cannot be confirmed at this time.
Over eight separate trails specifically meant for birding in Murchison Falls National Park have been opened to promote avian tourism in Uganda’s largest conservation area.
According to Patrick Tushabe the Product Development Executive at UWA, the trails are situated on both the northern and southern banks of River Nile in the open savanna grassland and the forested area. Murchison Falls National Park boasts of hundreds of birds species including the most sought after ones like the shoe bill.
A principal Wildlife Officer from the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Heritage, Mr. Akankwasa Barirega who walked along some of the new trails on the Big Birding Day in late September, applauded the management of Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) for opening up new trails to promote birding in Murchison Falls National Park and other conservation areas.
Mr. Akankwasa says this is a new innovation which government will support in developing infrastructure and diversification of products to attract more visitors and make them stay longer in the national parks.
The Conservation Area Manager, Murchison Falls Conservation Area Mr. Tom Okello says with the new trails to supplement the popular launch trips to the boat of the falls and the Victoria Nile delta during which a concentration of birds are sighted, the avian tourism will definitely generate more interest and revenue.
Tushabe says bird check lists for different national parks were being developed as well as the procurement of specialized equipment.
Besides the birding trails, an 18 km trail on the northern bank to the top of the falls has constructed with funding from Tullow Oil. The spectacular Top of the Falls which is a sight to behold has previously only been accessed by road from the southern bank. The new facility is expected to attract tourists to stay longer after the popular game drives along the northern banks of the Nile.
Development partners and the Uganda Wildlife Authority have finalized plans for development and transformation of Ruhija and Rushaga sectors of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (BINP)as sprawling tourism destinations not only for mountain gorillas but a diversity of products.
According to Rob Hicks, a consultant with Robford Tourism, Gorilla tourism has been a success story in Uganda but more needs to be done to turn the country into a good value for money destination. He says the new plans will address inadequate accommodation facilities, the guiding services, explore new tourism attractions like the picturesque lakes and forest elephants and the notion of Participatory Environment Research Tourism (PERT), experiential Tourism and birding.
Hicks says Mountain Gorillas are is a unique, ”must see” product but tracking them requires better access roads, auxiliary commercial tourism support services, high standards of services and amenities and diversification of gorilla products as well as community benefits.
Among the facilities recommended for development include a canopy Trail located in a strategic place ,creation of a hi-tech resource centre where visitors will access the World wide web, leisure parks for trading, guiding, future use zone and a transitory facility where visitors both during the day and at night .It also recommends facilities for low, middle and high income classes of visitors.
According to Mr. Stephen Asuma the country director for International Gorilla Conservation Program (IGCP) which is the main sponsor for the plans, the plans are to be submitted to UWA plus the local governments of Kabale and Kisoro districts for implementation.
Mr. Stephen Masaba, the acting Director Tourism and Business Services at UWA says the plans once approved will be incorporated in the organization’s General Management Plan(GMP) for implementation.
Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) has its awareness campaign by actively participating in various exhibitions where nature based tourism products and services are showcased.
The authority conspicuously supported and participated in the third Buganda Tourism Expo in late June, the 19th Source of the Nile National Agricultural and trade show in Jinja between 18th-24th July, the World Tourism Day exhibitions in Gulu September 22nd-27th and the Uganda Manufacturers’ Association (UMA) Trade fair in October.
During the exhibitions, Ugandans and the global community get the opportunity to learn about the new products, conservation efforts, and investment opportunities as well as other developments in the nation’s ten national parks and 12 wildlife reserves.
Below are some actions captured during the various exhibitions?
In its continued initiatives to support and work with journalists who have exhibited passion for tourism reporting, the management of the Uganda Wildlife Authority has offered free gorilla tracking permits to the two winners of the Sustainable Tourism Media awards in the print and Television category.
The offers will go to Gerald Tenywa of the New Vision and Craig Kadoda of Nation TV. Announcing the offers during the second Sustainable Tourism Media awards on September 16, 2011 at Kampala Serena Hotel, the Chief Executive Officer of UWA, Dr. Andrew Ggunga Seguya observed that the authority is very supportive of efforts to encourage journalists in their work, and has over the years worked closely with various media organisations to promote tourism and wildlife management in the country. He urged the winning journalists to take advantage this opportunity to experience the tourism attractions first hand and subsequently provide visibility for the parks.
The acting Executive Director also appreciated the frequency of reporting on tourism related stories both in the print and broadcast media and pledged continued support to the Tourism Media awards.”We do appreciate the building of awareness and creation of interest in our national heritage. As you are aware, tourism in Uganda is largely nature based,” Dr. Seguya said .
Local and international tourists have one and a half months of discounted gorilla permits to track the much sought after mountain gorilla groups of Kahungye,Oruzogo,Mishaya and the historical Mubare family of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park .
Mr. Stephen Masaba,the acting director of Tourism and Business Services at Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) confirms that Ugandans will be offered a permit at a mere 100,000 shillings, Foreign Residents with a 24 month express visa at 250 US dollars and Foreign Non Residents at 350 dollars a permit.
UWA management explains that the permits for the other gorilla groups remains at the reigning rates stipulated in the conservation fees/tariff. Oruzogo group located in Ruhija sector, Kabale district and Kahungye which has its home range in Rushaga, Kisoro district are the recent additions to the habituated families and are currently the most popular with their exciting individuals exhibiting unique features and positive behavior.
Mishaya on other hand is the group that seceded from Nshongi, the world’s largest habituated mountain gorilla group last year and is being tracked independently. Initially with nine individuals , it has acquired more members from the wild groups to become one of the most viable families.
Mubare group in Buhoma retains its unique status as the oldest habituated group in Bwindi and one of the easiest to track. The offer is valid until the end of November ,2011.