By EDGAR R. BATTE, Monitor Publication
A new nationwide survey shows that Ugandans value wildlife, which is good conservation news considering that it is one of the country’s tourism resources. In the ‘Attitudes to wildlife’ survey, 79 per cent of respondents said it would matter a great deal if Uganda’s wildlife disappeared. They, however, expressed concern that tourism is undervalued and therefore, called for the protection of animals. The survey was conducted by Uganda Conservation Foundation and international conservation group WildAid, in partnership with Uganda Wildlife Authority.
The findings indicate that only 5 per cent said they did not care about wildlife heritage. More than 2, 300 people, in both rural and urban areas, participated in the survey. Overall, 80 per cent said wildlife is ‘an important source of income for the country’, a figure that rose to 93 per cent in the north. Sixty per cent said it is important for their national identity and heritage’ and 56 per cent said they are proud of Uganda’s wildlife,” according to the report. Fifty eight per cent of the respondents said tourists are important to the Ugandan economy, a figure that rose to 71 per cent in the North. With regard to the connection between wildlife and tourism, only 12 per cent were aware that tourists come to Uganda to see wildlife, which came as a surprise considering that the Ministry of Tourism sees wildlife as the major driver of Ugandan tourism.
Uganda is one of the three countries where tourists can track and see the highly prized mountain gorillas. “Wildlife is hugely important for tourism. We are working to improve the infrastructure for our tourism industry in and around the parks and to better integrate local communities, who already receive 20 per cent of park gate receipts,” said Godfrey Kiwanda Suubi, the state minister for Tourism. The report also offers details on poaching and conservation. For instance, when respondents were asked about the need for protection of specific specie, 55 percent said elephants needed the most protection, followed by 22 per cent for lions and 18 per cent for gorillas.