By Kobusiinge Monica
Uganda is doing all it can to preserve its status as the Pearl of Africa, diversify its natural endowment while earning a fortune from tourism and agriculture.
“Imagine yourself waking up to tell your grandchildren that there were once; elephants, rhinos and lions in this country,” feared Minister of tourism Ephraim Kamuntu.“But after competing for space we rendered them homeless. This is a scenario that has happened elsewhere in the world.”
This was while giving a key note address at Speke Resort Munyonyo during the ongoing 16th African Wildlife Consultative Forum. Participants moved restlessly in their seats.
“Unless everyone learns to coexist with nature, there is a risk of this country ceasing to be what Winston Churchill baptized – The Pearl of Africa,” posed Kamuntu.
“Although it is such a hurdle to brave, government is doing all it can to contain the spiraling human/wildlife conflict.”
He lamented that unfortunately, come election time, opportunists promise the electorate heaven on earth to degazette national parks, forest reserves and swamps.
“And yet 9% of Uganda GDP is dependent on tourism,” stressed Kamuntu. “It is destined to earn sh10 trillion by 2020 replacing coffee and cotton as a major foreign income earners.”
He revealed that government is making giant strides in conserving nature by sharing 20% of each gate collections revenue with communities living in the neighborhood of game reserves.
“On top of that we are beefing up the number of rangers, equipping them and deploying sniffer dogs to contain the appalling increase in this illegal trade in out lawed nature products,” stressed Kamuntu. “Consequently racquets of dealers have been halted or prevented while being implemented.”
A participant from Zimbabwe, James Rosenfels concurred that as revealed by Kamuntu, land is being lost by animals to human beings every day.
“And they never get it back,” lamented Resenfels. “Unfortunately once lost, the animals which are a great asset to the entire Africa continent, never get it back. There is need to protect them jealously.”
The Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) executive director Sam Wangah represented by George Owesigire beamed with smiles of satisfaction about the state of affairs in the country.
“Compared to what Uganda was in the post Uhuru years, we are on the right track,” said Owesigire adding that Rhinos that were declared extinct have since been reintroduced to the country and we boast more that 50% of the surviving Mountain gorillas left in the world. This is besides having more than 1065 different species of birds in our midst.
Asked how they have managed to excel in conservation when elsewhere the opposite is being done, Owesigire said theirs is not a smooth path either.
“We have introduced income generating activities that double as repellants to elephants that besiege gardens and dine on them,” revealed Owesigire, adding that they plant pepper or introduce bee hives which are dreaded and avoided by the gentle giants (elephants).
Participants from USA, India, Europe and Africa were requested to visit the treasured Murchison Falls, Queen Elizabeth and Kidepo Valley National Parks to see how endowed Uganda is by nature.
“Besides the Big five, there are mountains, reptiles, culture and the hospitable people,” summed up UWA spokesperson Gessa Simplicious. “It is interesting how our ancestors preserved nature for us through totems that reduced their demise.”
Adding that, UWA has translocated some species of animals like Uganda Kobs and giraffes to make a variety of species in different regions of the country.
“If it so happens that a given species of giraffes gets extinct in Murchison, we will not have to foot exorbitant bills to import them from South African or America as it were with the White Rhinos,” explained Gessa.