UGANDA (eTN) – On December 20, 2013, at its 68th session, the United Nations General Assembly decided to proclaim March 3 as the day of signature of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), and as UN World Wildlife Day to celebrate and raise awareness of the world’s wild animals and plants.
This year’s World Wildlife Day in Uganda was commemorated with a series of events starting with a Public lecture on March 4 at Hotel Africana presented by UWA’s (Uganda Wildlife Authority’s) Edgar Buhanga and discussed by Mr. David Duli of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), also known as the World Wildlife Fund in the US and Canada. It was themed on the future of the African elephant.
This year, emphasis on habitat loss was highlighted with the PS (Permanent Secretary) Ministry of State Tourism Wildlife and Antiquities, Ambassador Patrick Mugoya, warning of threats to wildlife, including habitat loss, poaching, and trafficking.
“For the sustainable management and development of wildlife for the socio-economic transformation of the country, government has passed the Wildlife Policy, 2014; The Wildlife Education Act 2015; and review of the Uganda Wildlife Act is in advanced stages,” noted the PS on what policy interventions the Government of Uganda has taken.
The celebrations were climaxed by a mini-marathon on March 6, 2015 at The Uganda Museum in Kampala presided over by Uganda’s third Deputy Prime Minister, Gen. Moses Ali, who represented the country’s Prime Minister, Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda. He inspected exhibitors from wildlife, tourism, and conservation agencies before witnessing testimony from a former poacher. In his closing speech, the third Deputy Prime Minister used the occasion to decry the wanton deforestation in Zoka forest.
Located in Northwestern Uganda, Zoka forest is the most northerly tropical forest in the country managed by the NFA (National Forestry Authority). It hosts luxuriant trees, birdlife, and primates including the endemic flying squirrel. The forest is contiguous with East Madi Wildlife Reserve which is managed by the UWA and has wildlife similar to Murchison Falls National Park, namely kobs, bush pigs, hartebeest, and several other angulates.
Whereas UWA is charged with the management and conservation of Uganda’s national parks and protected areas, NFA is mandated with the management of all central forest reserves. In recent years, the two agencies have failed to harmonize their activities with NFA, engaging in lumbering in the forest, much to the consternation of UWA.
The third Deputy Prime Minister who has represented the region as a member of Parliament for the better part of his political career spanning over forty years, has been witness to the destruction of the forest and the reserve by returning refugees, communities engaged in land conflict, poachers, and land grabbers. To this end, in his closing statement, he passionately called for collaboration between the two agencies including having joint patrols especially where NFA has been short on manpower.
Not all was doom and gloom, for the celebrations noted positive trends in the populations of elephants and mountain gorillas in the country, with elephant populations increasing from 2,000 in 1983 to 5,346 in 2014, and the endangered mountain gorilla population increasing from 298 in 1993 to over 400 to date.