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?