By Frank Kamuntu
Kampala: A few months ago, you might have heard about the introduction of a tiger pair in Uganda. Well, today, the Uganda Wildlife Conservation Education Centre (UWEC) has let the cat out of the bag, over half a century since tigers were last seen at the then Entebbe zoo; the only place they’ve ever been known to live in Uganda.
Speaking at a press conference that was also streamed live on the wildlife center’s social media channels this morning, the UWEC Executive Director, Dr. James Musinguzi said the male and female pair (aged 2 years and 3 months) arrived on 7th March 2020 from a South African partner zoo before the national lockdown and have since been under the watch of the vet team at UWEC.
“The pair of tigers will be transferred from the quarantine facility to their specialized exhibit next week which has been made suitable to mimic their habitat, having gone through full mandatory quarantine for 90 days and are ready for exposure to the public starting 3rd December 2020,” Dr. Musinguzi adds.
“Tigers are known to be Asian cats. In Africa, they don’t exist in the wild but can be found in a series of zoos. Tigers are considered endangered according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. They are territorial species and are the largest member of the cat family,” UWEC’s Dr. Musinguzi mentioned.
Eric Ntalo, the wildlife center’s publicist says, this tiger pair completes UWEC’s conservation education, research, and recreation concept in line with the #BigCats family joining its African relatives (the lions, leopards, and cheetahs). The famed Entebbe zoo will be the only place in the country to see them.
“Tiger reintroduction in Uganda is in partnership with the World Association of Zoos & Aquaria and the Pan African Association of Zoos & Aquaria (to which Uganda holds chairmanship),” – Dr. Musinguzi said. UWEC is also known to be the training center for zoos & aquaria in the region.
Like many passionate conservationists, I have had a question at the back of my mind. Why would a Ugandan wildlife center introduce exotic species like the tigers?
David Musingo UWEC’s Manager in charge of Information & Education says that in light of their commitment, wildlife conservation, as well as conservation education, is a global responsibility. He however assures wildlife enthusiasts that these exotic animals will only be kept at UWEC, and never introduced in the Ugandan wild as per the specifics dictated in a license from the Uganda Wildlife Authority.
When asked about the cost of importing the two giant felines, Dr. Musinguzi mentioned that it would often cost about USD 30,000 to get one tiger individual but due to UWEC’s innovation, they were able to get the animals in a barter arrangement. About 25 monkeys were traded for the male and female tiger.