Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category

Gorilla Tracking charges lowered

The Uganda Wild life Authority (UWA) has slashed fees for Uganda gorilla tracking permits by about 60% to both locals and foreigners.

UWA executive director, Dr. Andrew Seguya, announced on Tuesday in Kampala that the fee for East Africans – Ugandan trackers inclusive will be Ush.100,000/= from Ush 250,000, US$250 from US$475 for Foreign Residents and US$350 from US$500 for Foreign Non residents.

These promotional rates are applicable only for the low months of March, April, May, October and November. For the peak months rates will remain Ush 250,000, US$475 and US$500 respectively.

This, he explained is meant to attract more tourists to Bwindi impenetrable forest, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and other tourism sites in the country. It is now on record that Gorilla trekking provides over 50% of tourism revenue for Uganda.

From a recent census, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park now has a total of about 32 gorilla groups. Of the 32 groups, nine are habituated of which eight are utilized for tourism while one is used for research. The total number of gorillas in Bwindi is about 340 which is almost over half of the estimated 720 Mountain gorillas in the world.

The census found that the percentage proportion of groups with several males (multimale) fell from 45% in the 1997 and 2002 censuses to 23% in the 2006 census.

According to an UWA press statement; this represents a normal fluctuation in the dynamics of gorilla groups. Because of the increase in the gorilla population, UWA has started a habituation process for two more groups in abid to boost Tourism revenue and satisfy the increasing public demand for gorilla tracking.

According to the researchers- “overall, the Uganda gorilla population has been increasing at an approximate annual growth rate of 1%, which is indicative of a healthy and well protected population”.

Reports also indicate that, in 2008, tourism earned Uganda $590m with 84,300 visitors. The tourism sector employs over 70,000 people directly while 300,000 people are employed indirectly in activities like handcraft.

According to the Uganda Tourism Board (UTB), tourist arrivals continue to increase thus have led to recent increases in forex earnings from $590m in 2008 to about US$650 m in 2010.

Omusinga Charles Mumbere to Trek Mount Rwenzori

THE Uganda Wild Life Authority (UWA) has organized a seven-day Uganda trip to Rwenzori Mountains so as to increase awareness about Uganda’s tourism potential among Ugandans.

The trip, code-named ‘Trip to the moon,’ will begin on Tuesday, January 18 and end on Wednesday 26th January. The UWA organized trip is arranged at the same time the Rwenzururu cultural leader Omusinga Charles Mumbere will be hiking the Rwenzururu trail. The hike will begin with a cultural ceremony at Ibanda-Bugoye, near nyakalengija in Kasese district.

On 19th January, His Majesty Omusinga Mumbere accompanied by members of Obusinga Bwa Rwenzururu, representatives of several NGOs, associations and media houses will then start hiking to the Mountains of the Moon.

The trekkers will first camp at the Nyabithaba Camp as they proceed with the hike. The team comprises staff from the Ministry of Tourism, Trade and Industry, Uganda Tourist Board, members of the Association of Uganda Tour Operators, representatives of the United States Aid for International Development-Sustainable Tourism in the Albertine Rift, as well as various media houses.

Mumbere will among other things sign a memorandum of understanding with the UWA team, which will officially allow the kingdom to perform cultural activities and related duties at the Bulemba sacred site. This site houses the remains of Rwenzururu’s first king, Isaiah Mukirania Kibanzanga.

Mumbere will also open the Rwenzori Mountaineering Services building at Nyabithaba camp before continuing with the trek to Margherita peak.

Raymond Engena, the Uganda Wild life Authority Ag Director Tourism and Business Development, said the trip is intended to appreciate and market the beauty and opportunities within the Rwenzori Mountains.

It is also aimed at encouraging Uganda mountain climbing as a recreational activity among Ugandans.

Tanzania Tourist Numbers Decline

By TEA Correpondent

Tanzania is likely to miss out on millions of dollars usually expected from the tourism industry following the decline of international tourists’ arrivals which is due to the global financial crisis. According to the UN World Tourism Organization, Tanzania suffered a 10 percent decline in foreign tourist arrivals in its wildlife-rich national parks in the first ten months of 2009.

The WTO’s 2009 comprehensive report shows that the country had received about 576,643 travelers, down from 641,951 international tourists in 2008. The UN body goes on to note that the negative trends in international tourism surfaced in the second half of 2008 and intensified in 2009 due to the global economic downturn.

As a result, Tanzania, East Africa‘s second largest economy after Kenya, is currently struggling to promote domestic tourism in a bid to fill the gap in foreign tourism. Mr. Ibrahim Mussa, Assistant Director Research, Training and Statistics in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism observed that government had opted to concentrate on domestic tourism due to its potential.

“We have decided to increase efforts to woo domestic tourists as a counter to the effects of the global financial crisis because we found that it is paying off,” said Mr. Mussa. He added that findings revealed that an endeavor to pursue local tourists is paying off with a 19.3% increase in activity.

Mr. Donatius Kamamba, Director of Antiquities in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, said that a preliminary analysis conducted by his Ministry, shows that the number of visitors coming to the country for leisure had dropped due to the consequences of the financial crisis.

$3m Grant from US to Save Lake Victoria and Mara River Basins

By Trek East Africa Correspondent

Nairobi, Kenya

A three year funding agreement between the East African Community and the United States Agency for International Development is expected to ensure that the Mara River Basin is properly managed so as to avoid environmental degradation. The Mara River Basin eco system is considered a new wonder of the world.

Under the agreement signed two weeks ago, East Africa Community’s Lake Victoria Basin Commission is expected to implement the Mara River Basins 2009 Bio diversity Action Plan that was recently adopted by the EAC Ministers.

Aimed at addressing threats to bio diversity hotspots in the Mara River Basin, the projects implementation will involve Kenya and Tanzania government agencies where the $3 million grant will be provided under US Aid Africa’s Tran boundary Water for Diversity.

The Mara basin water shed extends from Kenya to northern Tanzania covering areas of Maasai Mara Game Reserve, Serengeti National Park and also makes up part of the eastern rim of the Lake Victoria basin.

This eco systems survival depends on the flow of the Mara River. With less water flowing in the Mara, there is a possibility of less water to drink for wildlife and this could easily lead to human wildlife conflicts.

Rotich, the Deputy Secretary General in charge of Finance and Administration at the East African Community emphasized the importance of the Mara River Basin eco system. He said the intervention on the Mara River Basin was timely, since environmental issues in particular global climate change are affecting all people.

“You don’t have to spend a lot of time trying to convince people about the environmental devastation that is being experienced. Rains are failing, rivers are drying up or getting polluted. We have all contributed to environmental degradation. And now we must do something about it”, he added.

Lake Victoria Basin Commission was established in 2005 as a specialized institution of the East African Community responsible for coordination of activities aimed at sustainable development of the basin.

The Shoe Bill: Africa’s most saught after bird

By Geoffrey Baluku

Uganda is more than just Gorillas. With 23 years of dramatic tourism growth Uganda has now been voted the number one birding destination in Africa. Travelers to Africa have unanimously consented that Uganda not only has a great diversity of wildlife but also a profusion of bird species.

Sir Fredrick Jackson, a former Governor of the Uganda protectorate and keen ornithologist once described Uganda as a “hidden Eden….and a wonderland for birds”.

He was right as no other area in Africa can match Uganda’s amazing diversity of habitats and this richness is reflected in the available 1056 bird species that include the rare shoebill stork – arguably one of the world’s most sought after birds.

Also known as Balaeniceps rex translated as “King Whale head“; the shoe bill is remarkably a striking bird with certain pre-historic looks. It is classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Aves and order Ciconiiformes.

The shoe bill has a large head and unusually long and wide colored bill, which ends in a hooked tip. Standing at 1.5 m in height and sharing attributes with both herons and storks, shoe bills with broad wings, long legs and unwebbed feet live alone in widely spaced pairs.

Some of the places known for viewing of this rare bird specie include Mabamba swamp on the shores of Lake Victoria, the banks of the Nile River in Murchison Falls National Park, Lake Kikorongo in Queen Elizabeth National Park, Lake Kyoga and the southern fringe of Lake Albert that adjoins with the Semliki wildlife reserve.

Their stealthy movements over rafts of floating vegetation, enable them to get hold of prey that include lung fish, water snakes and small crocodiles.

Partially nocturnal and sluggish, the shoe bill obtains its diet by probing the mud with its boot like bill. They also fly with their heads and necks folded back.

As the breeding season approaches usually in the months of April to June, the male and female start engaging in a bill clacking courtship prior to mating and putting up a nest of broken reeds and other aquatic vegetation.

Two eggs are usually laid with both the female and male taking turns incubating them for a period that takes about a month. Two silvery brown chicks are hatched – and do remain helpless for some time. The young birds are dependant on the skilful hunting of their parents.

This goes on for about four months – till the young bills are properly developed. Shoe bills life span usually ranges between forty and forty -five years. Approximately 1000 shoe bills are still believed to survive in different parts of Uganda.

With increasing human population characterized by continued habitat destruction and encroachment the survival of the shoe bill stork is paramount considering the increasing number of dedicated ornithologists as well as the novice bird watcher to Uganda who are coming in big numbers to get a glimpse of this rare bird.

Get the Feel, Thrill of Mount Mgahinga

TEA & Agencies

Nestled in the south western tip of Uganda on the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mount Mgahinga has an area of just 34 square kilometres and is the Uganda’s smallest national park.

It encompasses the Uganda side of the three Bufumbira volcanic mountains of Mgahinga at 3400 metres high, Sabinyo at 3645m and Muhavura at 4127m.

Mgahinga can be reached from Kampala either by air or road. From Kampala the park is about 540 kilometres and is punctuated with scenic views while charter flights to Kisoro Airstrip take approximately an hour from Entebbe.

Gazetted as a sanctuary in 1930, this park has 76 mammal species with the most notable being Uganda’s trump card; the mountain gorilla. Nyakagezi, one of the habituated groups or gorilla families, in this park keeps moving back and forth across the boundary of Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In 1964, the northern boundary of the sanctuary was changed to a lower altitude of 2280m extending into heavily encroached zones and gazetted as a game reserve which made an area of roughly 47.5km² that has gone on reducing to 38.6 square kilometres. This game reserve was later gazetted to its present status of a national park in 1991.

Other key species of primates known to be in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park include the golden monkey and the black and white Colobus monkey. Considering that this park is a gem amongst Ugandan parks, other animals to look out for include golden cats, giant forest hogs, Caruthers’s mountain, Boehm’s, side stripped jackal, honey badger, buffaloes, elephants and 12 bird species among which are the cinnamon chested bee eater and the globally threatened Grauer’s rush warbler.

Being an Afro-montane tropical rainforest, it has abundant bamboo that is one of the delicacies for the mountain gorilla. Mgahinga National Park has three extinct volcanoes. Though no special mountain gear is required, it is recommended that one has to be physically fit. The three extinct volcanoes are Mt. Gahinga, Mt. Muhavura and Mt.Sabinyo.

Mount Sabinyo commonly referred to as “Old Man’s Teeth” is the point where you will be in Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) at the same time. The hike takes approximately eight hours for the round trip that covers the 14 -kilometre stretch.

Mt. Gahinga, locally known as a “Small Pile of Stones” is another of the hills that make up the Virunga ranges while Mt. Muhavura meaning “The Guide” is a volcano that acts as a guide since it is seen from all over Kisoro. The hike to Mt. Gahinga takes approximately eight hours for a round trip to cover the 12 km stretch.

Another principal feature in the area are the caves. Most notable is Garama cave where the Batwa are believed to have once lived. This 342-metre long and 14-metre deep cave three kilometres from the park headquarters is now inhabited by bats. Kisoro town offers a wide range of accommodation facilities ranging from basic campsites to luxurious hotels.

Recommended hotels and lodges include Traveler’s Rest Hotel and Mount Gahinga Lodge. For the avid hiker, Mt. Mgahinga is the place to go. However, there is need for more shorter and varied walks that can be promoted around or within the park.