By Patrick Jaramogi : www. theinvestigatornews.com
As elephant population rises in Uganda, registering one of the high rising elephant populations in Africa, government is instituting measures to jealously guard these endangered spices, The Investigator can reveal.
Among the new 'tough measures' to be included in the amended Uganda Wild Life Act are maximum jail terms of up to 20 years and fines ranging up to UGX 200 million (USD 60,000) for poachers.
The Investigator has established that the motion amending the Wild Life Act is ready for tabling on the floor of parliament. Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) Executive Director Dr. Andrew Seguya confirmed that the bill is already at the first Parliamentary Council.
The State Minister of Tourism Wildlife and Antiquities Hon. Kiwanda Suubi kick started Tulambule wild (go visit) local tourism drive at Murchison Falls National Park with a strong call for all Ugandans to visit and know more about the national parks. The minister who made a grand entrance through Murchison's Kichumbanyobo gate with journalists and locals in tow drummed up support for local tourism. Hon. Kiwanda was joined by his host the Executive Director of UWA, Dr. Andrew Seguya and Murchison Falls Conservation Area Chief, Assistant Director Tom Okello and his entire team of staff in Murchison. The Tulambule wild launched in Murchison will go around all the national parks till the end of February 2017.
"Uganda Wildlife Authority has kept the habitat intact and ensured that the animal numbers shoot up. Tourism is every one's responsibility and therefore everyone should take keen interest in it," said the minister on arrival. He was impressed with the most recent initiative of the state of art gate currently under construction. The gate will be a payment point for cashless system, an internet and coffee point for the tourists as well as a visitor center. "This infrastructural development is important not only to make visitors stay longer but also comfortable. Am glad UWA has done its best to upgrade the park facilities to world class," the minister emphasized as he made a brief address to the press.
While in Paraa, the Minister's Tulambule entourage was welcomed by numerous area Political leaders including members of Parliament and LC V chairpersons of the districts surrounding the park who came to show solidarity with the campaign. Hon. Biranwa Steven and Hon. Jalia Bintu both thanked management for being cooperative and proactive in protection of both the interests of the park and people around it. They reaffirmed their support for the domestic tourism drive.
The Tulambule team combed through all pockets of the park's key attractions to draw support and show case the unique features for the community and media team. This massive launch of awareness is intended to show how national parks are affordable and endowed with unique attractions. Dr. Seguya Andrew called on the locals to interest themselves with national parks because they are affordable and unique. "Our national parks are affordable with low fees for Ugandan nationals reduced considerably from those of foreign nationals. The low budget accommodation costs 20,000/= in the students center for adults while students pay 3,500/=. There also camping facilities available at prior notice," affirmed Dr. Seguya.
Several companies have bidded for three sites to construct lodges in Murchison Falls National Park to boost tourism.
According to the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) executive director, Mr Andrew Gunga Seguya, the initiative is expected to reduce on accommodation fees for more tourists.
"We invited bidders to construct a 40-bed lodge at Karuma Falls, 30-bed at Rwagongo Forest and another 30-bed at Bugungu on the Butyaba escarpment. All this is aimed at providing more accommodation for clients visiting the park," he said.
Speaking to Members of Parliament and journalists after visiting Murchison Falls National Park in a campaign to boost local tourism named tulambule last week, Mr Seguya declined to disclose the number and name of the firms that have bidded.
The Tulambule campaign started on September 23, 2016, at the onset of 2016 World Tourism Day celebrations in Mbarara. It aims at creating awareness about Uganda tour adventures and destinations and calls upon everyone to be part of this initiative by visiting the 10 national parks other game reserves in Uganda.
The Ugandan National Parks include; Bwindi Impenetrable, Kibale, Kidepo Valley, Mount Elgon, Rwenzori Mountains, Lake Mburo, Semuliki, Murchison Falls, Mgahinga Gorilla and Queen Elizabeth.
State minister for Tourism Godfrey Kiwanda, said the initiative would boost revenue to government.
Most of the accommodation in the park is billed in US dollars, something that has discouraged local tourists.
Half of the tourists that visit the park are foreigners charged entrance fee of $40 (Shs150,000) while locals pay Shs10,000.