Kanungu - September 25, 2020 – Uganda Wildlife Authority has officially re-launched primate tourism in the country following the suspension of the activity on March 25, 2020. The re-launch was officiated over by the Minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities Hon. Tom Butime at Buhoma in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Hon. Butime said that the suspension was a painful but necessary undertaking in order to protect both the primates and humans from possible infection of the coronavirus. He observed that the suspension had a negative impact on UWA revenues hence its operations. “Gorilla tourism accounts for over 70% of UWA’s revenue and therefore its suspension has had a negative effect on the revenues of UWA and some of its operations had to be scaled down giving priority to wildlife protection”.
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The president of Uganda 20th, September 2020 announced the opening of Uganda’s international airport and land borders. This he noted was aimed at resumption tourists to the country after a period of more than six months as a measure against the spread of COVID-19. The announcement was made in the president’s 20th address to the nation on measures undertaken by the government measures to contain coronavirus in the country. This comes as welcome news to the tourism fraternity who have lost revenue and jobs as a result of a slump in tourism activities. The national parks in June fully opened to tourism under strict Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) but have seen slow progress as a result of the closure of the international borders to visitors.
As part of the additional measures to keep the country safe from further spread of the coronavirus, the President said that any passengers arriving in the country must have a negative COVID-19 polymerize chain reaction (PCR) test result from an accredited laboratory in the country of origin. The test should have been conducted within the last 72 hours before the scheduled departure from the country of origin. “Returning Ugandans with negative PCR results will be allowed to go home, and the Health Ministry will only get their addresses for follow up,” he added.
The Uganda Wildlife Authority Executive Director Mr Sam Mwandha was delighted that tourists abroad will be able to come to the country and enjoy the country’s attractions. This however will only be possible with the strict observance of the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) put in place by the government to protect staff, tourists and wildlife under protection. “We are ready to receive visitors in our protected areas. We have kept the wildlife and other attractions safe and we are now waiting for visitors to come and enjoy the beauty of Uganda.” He welcomed all the visitors intending to travel to Uganda and emphasized that parks are safe places to visit.
The other restrictions partially lifted to begin operations included schools to open for candidate classes next month, while places of worship will open with strict standard operating procedures.
The Uganda Civil Aviation Authority in a letter to the airlines' executives said 13 flights to and from the airport have been cleared for the first day of the opening, while 10 flights are confirmed for the second.
Airlines in the country to resume operations include the national carrier Uganda Airlines, Turkish Airlines, Kenya Airways, Qatar Airways, Air Tanzania, Ethiopian Airlines, FlyDubai, RwandAir, KLM, Emirates, Brussels Airlines, and Tarco Aviation.
The staff of Uganda Wildlife Authority- Bwindi Impenetrable National Park have risen to yet another ecstatic moment of a new baby gorilla with Mucunguzi family coming through on 4th Sept 2020 from Adult Female Ndinkahe. On the other hand, Rushegura gorilla family brought forth a baby from Adult Female Ruterana increasing the family membership to 18 gorillas and two for the group same year!
This takes the tally of new births in Bwindi forest to 5 in just six weeks and fourteen in the year! The new Rushegura baby marks Ruterana's third offspring in the family. Ruterana particularly has not had a smooth tide with keeping her offsprings alive. When she was 12 years, her first offspring born September, 13, 2012 sadly succumbed to Pneumonia while only fortnight old. The other birth in the family came from Kibande on August 27, 2020. Kibande's new baby marks her fifth surviving offspring in group. She is also the most senior lady and kingmaker of the family.
Not long ago in April 2020, Rushaga sector registered birth of two babies in Muyambi and Nshongi gorilla groups. According to the Chief Warden BMCA Guma Nelson, the new babies then were thought to have been born on April 25 and May 1, 2020, respectively. Mother Kabagyenyi and Silverback Bweza of Nshongi were observed by the monitoring team of rangers tightly guarding the baby gorilla while in Muyambi group, silverback Muyambi was often seen on patrol to decisively protect the family’s new entrant. Adult Female Kabagyenyi joined Nshongi family from a wild group when she was a sub-adult. Muyambi group on the other hand is the newest group that opened to tourism in 2019. It has six family members. The unnamed mother joined the group from the wild.
Other gorilla families with babies this year include Katwe group which had a baby on 16th Jan for Ntabwoba Adult Female, Nkuringo family welcomed a birth 22nd May, Busigye family had a baby on 28th July with unnamed Adult Female, Mukiza family group 17th February from Adult Female Bwebisha, while Oruzoogo family was 25th July by mother Katoto and Kahungye 20th Jan with yet to be named Adult Female.
The Executive Director UWA Sam Mwandha Observed that "the birth of new mountain gorillas is testimony to Uganda's successful conservation efforts. With enhanced integrity of protected areas, there has been a general increase in wildlife populations in Uganda," he said.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature classifies the mountain gorilla as an endangered species. Uganda wildlife Authority continues to be committed to conservation and protection of gorillas to ensure that the population increases despite the Covid19 interruptions.