July 2020

The Kabale Chief Magistrate’s Court on July, 30, 2020 sentenced Byamukama Felix to 11 years in prison for killing Rafiki the Silverback of Nkuringo Gorilla group and other wildlife in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Byamukama pleaded guilty to three counts that included illegal entry into the protected area, killing a gorilla and a duiker. The Chief Magistrate His Worship Julius Borere sentenced him to 5, 6, and 5 years respectively to be served concurrently.

In a second case file, Byamukama pleaded guilty to counts of killing a bush pig, being in possession of bush pig and duiker meat for which he was sentenced to 5 years on each count, to run concurrently after serving the first six years on case file one. He will therefore serve a total of 11 years.

Byamukama Felix is a resident of Murole village, Nteko  Parish, Nyabwishenya Sub County, Kisoro District and was arrested on June 4, 2020 following the death of Rafaki a Silverback of Nkuringo group. Upon search, he was found in possession of bush pig meat and several hunting devices including a spear, rope snares, wires snares and a dog hunting bell that were recovered from his home. His three colleagues Bampabenda Evarist, Museveni Valence and Mubangizi Yonasi denied the charges and were remanded to Kisoro prisons.

The Executive Director UWA Sam Mwandha welcomed the court’s decision saying that Rafiki has received justice. “We are relieved that Rafiki has received justice and this should serve as an example to other people who kill wildlife. If one person kills wildlife, we all lose, therefore we request every person to support our efforts of conserving wildlife for the present and future generations,” he said.  Mwandha further explained that the new law (Wildlife Act 2019) is tough and that anyone involved in illegal wildlife activities will face the wrath of the law.

On June 1st, 2020, Rafiki, the silver back of Nkuringo gorilla group was reported missing in the group and on June 2nd, 2020, our team mounted a search for the missing silver back. The body of Rafiki was later found in Hakato area inside BINP.

Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) has this morning received operations gear from African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) to facilitate better rangers on patrol enforcement operations in the parks. The items include 100 heavy duty single man tents, 300 gumboots reinforced with steel material, 300 safari sleeping pads, 300 metallic water bottles, 400 small size hand sanitizers and 2000 masks.  The items to be distributed across all national parks were handed over by AWF Executive Director Suudi Bamulesewa to UWA Executive Director Sam Mwandha at Uganda Museum on July, 27, 2020 flanked by UWA’s top management.

Bamulesewa noted that due to the current COVID 19 threat, the single man tents donated are not shareable. This he said is specifically intended  to help minimise risk of spread of the disease during extended overnight patrols where rangers camp in the wild for days. “The tents are single man to avoid any disease spread but also avail the rangers with a decent and comfortable place in the night as they go about protection of the national parks during these unprecedented days of the Corona pandemic. The gumboots will offer effective protection of staff during the patrols and can last longer because they are reinforced with steel,” he said.

The ED UWA Sam Mwandha appreciated the long-standing partnership the institution enjoys with AWF and thanked them for the help extended especially during the uncertain time of COVID 19 pandemic. “The sleeping pads will be a great motivation to our rangers on patrol especially in the rainy and cold days,” he said. “I wish to extend our gratitude to AWF for coming through for UWA in dealing with the current challenges where resources have significantly reduced due to the drop in the revenue collected,” Mwandha added. 

The Minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities Hon. Tom Butime has assured the public that Uganda’s national parks are safe to visit because the safety of tourists is given number one priority. The Minister gave the assurance while receiving 12-unit ranger accommodation facility from the European Union (EU) delegation to Uganda to accommodate park rangers in Queen Elizabeth National Park in Kanungu July 24, 2020. He said that security in the national parks has been boosted to ensure that when the country opens its borders to international visitors, their safety is guaranteed. “I want to use this opportunity to assure the public and the international community that our parks are very safe and secure. The security of tourists in the parks is a high priority for the government and we shall continue to make strategic and operational interventions to ensure that our parks and other recreational facilities are safe for tourists.”

He said that Uganda’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic is unrivalled and the country is one of the safest for people to visit. As a country, we are exemplary in the management of COVID-19 with a higher rate of recoveries. Our exceptional performance in managing COVID-19 coupled with amazing attractions especially in our protected areas makes Uganda the safest place that should be visited by any person intending to travel.

He revealed that the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities is working together with other relevant ministries and agencies to come up with a mechanism of opening the country’s borders to allow international visitors into Uganda in a safer way.

Hon. Butime said that it was important to have the outpost in Ishasha given the strategic nature of the area. “This new Ranger post at Simama is very strategic and key in controlling poaching and other illegal activities in this part of Queen Elizabeth National Park. This area was identified as one of the key hot spots for poaching during the preparation of the Park’s Law Enforcement Strategy a few years ago and for UWA to dominate the area and address the poaching threat, they needed a ranger post, which has now been built.” He observed that tourists to the national park want to feel that they are safe and the existence of outpost provides that assurance.

The Minister expressed gratitude to the European Union for funding the construction of the ranger outpost and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) in collaboration with International Union for Conservation of Nature Netherlands (IUCN NL), for supervising the construction.

The EU Ambassador to Uganda His Excellency Attilio Pacifici handed over the facility to Hon. Tom Butime at Simama Ranger out post in Ishasha Sector, Queen Elizabeth National Park. His Excellency Attilio Pafici was flanked by ambassadors from Italy, Ireland, Belgium, France, Austria, Hungary and the Ugandan ambassador to the Nordic countries Nimisha Madhvani.

He said the EU is supportive of the growth of Uganda’s tourism sector and they are supporting wildlife protection because Uganda’s tourism is largely wildlife based. “We know you have made great strides in conserving Uganda’s wildlife and we want to support you to do a better job of protecting the animals in the parks because your country’s tourism depends a lot on wildlife”. He further said that ambassadors from EU countries are supporting the quick recovery of Uganda’s tourism sector after COVID-19 so that the country continues to earn the much-needed foreign exchange and create jobs for the citizens through tourism.

The Executive Director Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) Sam Mwandha thanked the EU and IFAW for the support saying that the facility will motivate the rangers to work harder to ensure that wildlife in the area is protected. He added that wildlife in all the national parks has been protected and all savannah parks are now open to the public. The facility will accommodate rangers and facilitate closer monitoring of wildlife, enhance transboundary patrols, including intelligence sharing and strengthening law enforcement capacity. It will curtail illegal activities along the Uganda-DR Congo border.

It was funded by the European Union and supervised by International Fund for Animal

Welfare (IFAW). The facility will ensure the existence of our personnel in the area and enhance operations aimed at fighting illegal wildlife activities.

Bwindi Mgahinga Conservation Area (BMCA) - Chief Warden Guma Nelson commissioned a 12-unit accommodation block for staff in Ruhija Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (BINP) on July, 21, 2020. The block has other additional facilities that include 6 kitchen units, 4 bathrooms and 04 water borne toilets. The new unit brings to 75% of the 45 rangers in the sector housed with decent accommodation.

At the unveiling of the new structure, Chief Warden Guma noted that much as the block is not adequate to house all staff, it demonstrates the intent of management to ensure everyone in the sector has comfortable housing facilities. The block is another milestone in the journey of provision of decent housing, improved staff welfare and bolstering productivity levels. “On your part as staff, you are required to use these facilities properly in a manner that whoever comes after you still finds the rooms habitable. Don’t oversleep and relax. We should protect the gorilla groups here both habituated & wild. Protect the integrity of this park. Control crop raids by elephants,” the Chief Warden counselled staff during the handover ceremony. The accommodation rooms are supplied with renewable energy in tandem with the status of the park as a world heritage site.

The Director Institute of Tropical Forest Conservation (ITFC) Dr.Robert Bitariho thanked UWA management for improving the welfare of staff as well as giving Ruhija a face lift as such initiatives are crucial in making developmental progress in society.   “The structure is a modern facility with water flush toilets & showers and provides a good image for the sector,” he said.
The Chairman LCIII Byomuhangi Clement thanked BMCA management for the good relationship they have between staff and the community. He noted that the harmonious working relations have enabled progress of Ruhija sector which some years back was said to be a very unreachable place.

Ruhija is one of the four sectors in Bwindi Impemetrable national park where tourists can track the famed mountain gorillas in Uganda. The others include Buhoma where the BINP park headquarters are located, Rushaga and Nkuringo.  

Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) has received a donation of food items from the Director Nkuringo Bwindi gorilla lodge and Nkuringo Walking Safaris Ms. Nandudu Lydia to all staff in Nkuringo sector - Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (BINP) on July 21, 2020.  A total of 119 staff (44 for Nkuringo and 75 for Rushaga) have benefited from this contribution. Each member of staff received 20 kgs of posho, 10 kgs rice, 10 kgs beans, 5 bars of soap, 4 litres of cooking oil and a pair of gumboots.

Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) has received funds worth USD 100,000 from Pilgrim Africa to support rangers in Bwindi Mgahinga Conservation Area for a period of 10 months. The funds will be used to support the ranger’s allowances and operational activities of the conservation area in order to carry out routine patrols as well as monitor the health of the gorillas. The Cheque was handed over to Uganda Wildlife Authority Executive Director (ED) Sam Mwandha by the Board Chairman Pilgrim Africa Dr. Ben Khingi and Patron Lt. Gen Charles Angina at UWA Head Office on 17th July 2020.

While receiving the cheque, UWA ED Sam Mwandha thanked Pilgrim Africa for donating the money for the good of conservation of wildlife. He said that UWA is now witnessing a reduction of poaching activities. Bwindi Mgahinga is a key conservation area because it generates more than half the total revenue Uganda Wildlife Authority gets from all national parks and therefore needs adequate protection as a high priority zone.

Dr. Khingi observed that national parks were a great economic asset to the country and that it is critical to protect them for the generations to come. “We are aware the halt to tourism income caused by COVID 19 has pushed many people who depend on tourism into poaching the very animals the industry depends on. Statistics indicate that cases of poaching in February and May did more than doubled this year compared to the previous year of 2019,” he observed.  “When we learnt that UWA is ensuring rangers spend more time with gorillas to lessen the chance that they could wander off and be poached, Pilgrim Africa was greatly motivated to get involved,” Dr. Khingi said. 

Lt. Gen Charles Angina thanked UWA for the management of national parks. He acknowledged the serious damage COVID 19 has had on Uganda’s tourism and noted the challenges that conservation grapples with given the reduction in resources for operational activities. He retaliated that Pilgrim Africa seeks to make a difference through assisting wildlife management because wildlife is the oxygen that drives tourism and could not be ignored. “This industry that comes with wildlife has great potential and therefore needs to be supported, there is no doubt wildlife is the oxygen of Uganda’s tourism” he noted.  He thanked the president for developing  security in wildlife management and building the capacity of UWA which now exhibits a lot of professionalism. “The President has been at the heart of ensuring wildlife is protected in the country. Poaching many years back was the norm with wildlife numbers very low. Thanks to the effort of empowerment of parks by the president, Uganda has conserved numerous animals now,” he said.

He said that Operation Wealth Creation is now partnering with tourism to work with communities to upgrade livelihood of the rural communities. Such initiatives including having families have clean water, clean toilets and benefit more from wildlife protection bolsters economic growth of the country. He called for tough sentences for poachers and said that anyone found planning to engage in any illegal activity should be punished so that they lose the appetite to poach.

Pilgrim Africa is a local NGO established in Uganda that has made interventions in education and health sectors for almost two decades. It begun as a conservation entity but its program focus was later shifted to health, education and emergency response as a result of numerous disaster situations like floods that happened in Teso region in early 2000s.

The handover ceremony was attended by UWA’s Director Tourism Business Development Stephen Masaba, Chief Warden Bwindi Mgahinga Conservation Area Guma Nelson while the team from Pilgrim Africa included the Country Coordinator, Pilgrim Africa Ms. Angella Amuron and Ms. Clare Ogullei

Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) Executive Director Sam Mwandha together with some members of UWA’s top management on July, 15, 2020 hosted five Ambassadors from the European Union (EU) lead by H.E. Attilio Pacifici the Head of EU Delegation in Uganda. Executive Director Sam Mwandha thanked the European Union (EU) for the continued support extended to the institution over the years that has seen many infrastructural development and stuff trainings supported to address conservation of wildlife challenges in the organisation. He informed the EU that UWA like many other agencies of government is grappling with insufficient resources to finance its operations as a result of COVID 19 pandemic that has hit all global economies.

Mwandha emphasized that the few resources the organisation can afford have been prioritised to deal with areas such as human wildlife conflict, invasive species and electric fencing in Queen Elizabeth that will continue on a scaled down rate. “The population increase of the people has unfortunately led to the clearance of habitats outside the national parks and wildlife reserves that used to harbour additional wildlife and yet population numbers of animals are on the rise,” the ED emphasized.

On behalf of EU, H.E Attilio Pacifici reaffirmed EU’s commitment to support wildlife development in the country and argued UWA to continue doing the great work it has always done despite the current crisis of Corona virus hitting the agency and economy. Other member States of the EU acknowledged the positive strides undertaken by the institution to manage wildlife in Uganda and argued it to diversify more on the tourism products to keep visitors flocking the country with more revenue collection for sustainability. The Union agreed to engage more on areas that help revamp the sector and ensure that normal operations are restored in the post COVID-19 era.

In the discussions, members acknowledged that Uganda was well endowed uniquely and there is need to have deliberate efforts to protect this national heritage and safe guard the unique treasures COVID 19 notwithstanding. The delegation thanked UWA for the strong collaboration with communities and emphasized that conservation cannot be done in isolation but with the host communities of the protected areas that need to understand and feel its benefits.   

Other issues discussed included tourism promotion and what the EU and Individual countries can do to help in promoting Uganda in Europe. The need to open the airport and make it a requirement for visitors to undergo COVID-19 test in their countries and having a rapid testing of visitors on arrival in Uganda was highlighted as key to revamping tourism. They called upon Uganda to brand the country as a safe destination given the zero COVID-19 deaths and recovery rate that would add value to marketing the destination in the post COVID era.

The Grade 1 Magistrate’s court of Kyegegwa District presided over by Mukanza Kakaru has sentenced Mugabemwe God 40 years of age, a resident of Kiregyesa village, Kyejonjo District to 10 years in prison, or pay a fine of seven million Uganda shillings for killing a red colobus monkey. The case was prosecuted by Uganda Wildlife Authority’s Reuben Ngene and Resident State Attorney of Kyejonjo Akatakunda Kakuru. 

On 30th June 2020, Mugabemwe God, a 40-year old resident of Kiregyesa village, Kyenjojo district was found in possession of the leg of a red colobus monkey. The accused was found carrying this leg by a Uganda Wildlife Officer Warden Education & Awareness, Baryagaruka Julius along Fort Portal-Kampala highway who upon notice arrested him and handed him over to the Kihura police post for prosecution. In the due course of the hearing, Mugabemwe confessed to have killed five colobus monkeys together with his colleagues still at large.

Uganda Wildlife Authority’s legal counsel Ali Luzinda applauded courts for expeditiously handling the case to its conclusion. “This will send a clear signal to those recklessly killing wildlife to think twice about their actions. The new wildlife law is very critical on wildlife offenders. Communities are advised to desist from poaching or engaging in any illegal killing of the wild animals,” Luzinda emphasized.

Uganda’s forests are a stronghold for the endangered red colobus monkey. The red colobus is distinct from other monkeys as it has a rust-red cap with a dark grey to black face. They have very long dark to light brown tails which they rely on for balancing when leaping through the treetops. The males weigh around 10.5 kg and are much larger than the females who weigh 7 kg. They live in groups of 30-100. They eat a diet composed almost completely of leaves and have a specialized stomach similar to a cow to digest these high-fiber foods.

Members of 9th Board of Trustee (BoT) Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) were inaugurated by Minister of Tourism Wildlife and Antiquities (MTWA) Hon. Tom Butime at a colourful ceremony held in Sheraton hotel Kampala on 3rd, July 2020. The new board will be chaired by Prof. Panta Kasoma succeeding Benjamin Otto. It is comprised of Dr. Anna Rose Ademun Okurut, Peter Ojede Francis, Harriet Nandutu, Kagumaho Kakuyo, Annet Ireeba Kobusinge, Jane Bagonza, Eng Ivan Batuma Mbabazi, Dr. Akankwasa Barirega Yahya and Dr. Panta Leon Mukasa Banda Kasoma.

While presiding over the function, Rtd. Col. Butime thanked members of the 8th BoT for the solid legacy left in the organisation after successfully steering UWA well. “These days, people take pride in being associated with UWA. These are results of good leadership. I want to thank Ben Otto because your board has set the bar high for the 9th board,” he noted. The minister noted that wildlife tourism has contributed to a tune of 7% to the GDP and still contributes 8% to the labour industry in the country.

Rtd. Col. Butime noted that lot of progress had been made in protection of wildlife an example being the surging wildlife population numbers. “Such valuable gains in the industry must not be lost to COVID-19,” he said. “The new board has an array of professionals and is equal to the task. It is a team that is ready to deliver,” he said. He tasked the new board to tackle the current conservation challenges that include encroachment, wildlife poaching, human wildlife conflict and the invasive species brought by climate change.

The inauguration was attended by State Minister of Tourism Wildlife and Antiquities Hon. Kiwanda Godfrey Suubi, conservation partners and UWA’s top management. Hon. Kiwanda thanked the members of the outgone board for the team work and great guidance given to the institution.

In her remarks, Permanent Secretary MTWA Ms. Doreen Katusiime emphasized the importance of Board of Trustee in the agency observing that it determined a lot on the institution’s success or failure. She thanked the outgoing members for the commendable successes scored in their term of office and welcomed the new ones to conservation work. 

The Chairman of the 8th BoT Benjamin Otto expressed gratitude and appreciation to Hon. Butime and his predecessor for the great leadership, advice and encouragement that enabled his team to perform with courage and satisfaction. In a special way, he thanked UWA staff for devotion and commitment to conservation to the extent that some have lost life in due course of duty.

On achievements, Otto highlighted some key accomplishments in his board’s four-year tenure. Key among them was improved wildlife protection that has seen surging population numbers in all national parks. He observed that “staff morale was high because they have been trained and equipped with better skills to do their work. The institution has new specialised units like the canine on board that have considerably reduced illegal trade in wildlife and remarkedly curtailed poaching.” He also reported a reduction of Human Wildlife Conflict (HWC) because of the multifaced approach undertaken to deal with the challenge. “Currently electric fencing of some parts of Queen Elizabeth and Murchison are being piloted which will go a long way to reduce wildlife raiding people’s crops and gardens,” he said. Other key milestones undertaken include reduction of invasive species in the protected areas, increase in revenue shared with communities and raising revenue collection to a tune of UGX 59 billion before the COVID- 19 pandemic disruption of the economy.  This, he said was attributed to the teamwork among the BoT members and its stakeholders with support from partners.

The new BoT chairman Dr. Panta Kasoma on his part thanked his predecessor for steering UWA as a reputable organisation and building team work among the members. “The challenges for wildlife conservation today are enormous a case being the growing population around all protected areas. I call upon Ugandans to a strive for a harmonious co-existence between communities and wildlife because it is the only way that guarantees sustainable habitat protection. It is not by accident that Uganda is gifted by nature,” he observed. He pledged to work tirelessly with members of his BoT to fulfil the mandate handed over to them and register good gains.  “We cannot afford the lawlessness of 1970s that saw loss of wildlife to near extinction,” he said. I call on Ugandans to visit national parks and attest to the beautiful sceneries of the country,” he said.   

Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) has received support of UGX 30 Million from the Giraffe Conservation Alliance (GCA) and Oregon Zoo Nature Connect Program, East Africa towards giraffe monitoring activities in Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve and Kidepo Valley National Park. The funds will be used to support the rangers to carry out routine patrols as well as monitor giraffes around their home range to mitigate poaching. The Cheque was handed over to Uganda Wildlife Authority Executive Director (ED) Sam Mwandha by the Project Coordinator Isaac Mujaasi at UWA Head Office on 1st July 2020.

ED Mwandha noted that UWA prides in doing well to fulfil its conservation mandate and any supplementary efforts geared towards achieving this objective is very appreciated. He revealed that the organisation had intensified efforts to patrol the protected areas because poaching incidences had increased since the beginning of the COVID 19 pandemic in March. However, due to the resilience and hard work of the field teams across the protected areas, the trend is going down. “Poachers had thought UWA had as well been locked down with its operations closed. But now they realise that we are carrying out even more patrols and law enforcement thus reduction of poaching incidences,” said Mwandha.  He noted that UWA appreciated the support of GCA to sensitize communities around the parks and cause awareness of the need to conserve wildlife.

Mujaasi in his remarks said that in these unprecedented times of the COVID 19 pandemic, it was important to support monitoring activities of the Giraffes because these are endangered and any further loss would easily render the population extinct. “Although UWA can fall back on her emergence savings from over the years, this is a big strain for the organisation. UWA needs to maintain all their staff to monitor giraffes and other wildlife species in the conservation areas and its neighbourhood. Issues of encroachment, poaching continue despite the lock down. There is therefore need to support efforts aimed at curbing threats to wildlife in addition to community awareness, education and empowerment,” Mujaasi noted.

 

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