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Nov. 6,2015


Uganda working to promote gorilla tourism

Minister of Tourism and Antiquities, Maria Mutagamba, has signed a regional agreement to promote gorilla conservation in Uganda, Rwanda, and DR Congo. The three countries share the only remaining population of mountain gorillas estimated at 880 globally. The regional agreement will also help to promote research and tourism as well as sharing of revenue where gorillas cross from one country to another.

“We are happy that the three countries have concluded a treaty that advances conservation of the highly-endangered species,” Mutagamba said before signing the Virunga Trans boundary Collaboration treaty in the ministry boardroom at Rwenzori Courts in Kampala. The agreement was signed by the respective ministers of tourism and conservation in DR Congo and Rwanda on September 22.

The Congolese government has allocated $100,000, which is a mandatory contribution from each of the three countries to implement the agreement. “We should make this self-sustaining through gorilla tourism,” said Mutagamba, adding that the countries need to increase the visibility of gorillas and that this could be done through the “Virunga Day” so that gorillas are known internationally.

After the signing of the treaty, Mutagamba said the proposed treaty will have to be ratified by Parliament and that this will conclude the legal process. Dr. Muaba Tshibasu, the Executive Secretary of Greater Virunga Trans-boundary Collaboration, the Executive Secretary of the Greater Virunga, described the signing of the treaty as an important step. He said the Virunga landscape is a hot spot for biological diversity, which should be conserved in a sustainable manner. “I can tell you that the most endangered species is the Mountain Gorilla, but there is also the African elephant which is being hunted by poachers who searching for ivory,” Tshibasu said. “We have a duty to protect the endemic species.” 

Commenting on the impact of the insecurity on conservation of the gorillas in eastern DR Congo, he said, “The cooperation will help us to face the challenges. The security situation does not allow us to work the way we would have wanted, but the treaty is going to help us to illegal trade.” He cited timber as part of the illegal trade that is undermining the forest landscape which is an important habitat for the gorillas.

The meeting was attended by James Lutalo, the Commissioner in Charge of Wildlife; Dr. Andrew Seguya, the Executive Director of the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA); officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Rwanda's Ambassador to Uganda, Frank Mugambage; and the Congolese Deputy Ambassador to Uganda, Jean Pierre Massala. Others were Dr. Muaba Tshibasu, the Executive Secretary of Greater Virunga Transboundary Collaboration; Grace Kyomuhendo, the Deputy Executive Secretary (Finance); James Byamukama in Charge of Programs; and Juvenal Mukeshimana, the Executive Assistant.

The agreement concludes about two decades of networking spearheaded by the wildlife and conservation agencies in the three countries. In recent years, the countries decided to take the collaboration to a higher level by creating the Greater Virunga Trans-boundary Agreement. The Council of Ministers meeting on September 22 where the Ministers of Rwanda and DR Congo signed the agreement was preceded by the meeting of the experts of the three state parties to the Treaty held on September 21, 2015 which was chaired by the Director General of Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature. The experts reviewed the agreement which was adopted and signed.



KIGALI, Rwanda - A tripartite meeting was held in Kigali yesterday where RDB’s Tourism and Conservation Department hosted their counterparts from the Uganda Wildlife Authority and Congo’s ICCN, to discuss closer cooperation vis a vis gorilla management and conservation in the Virunga mountains.

Rica Rwigamba welcomed her counterparts from Uganda, Dr. Andrew Sekuya and Dr. Wilungula from Congo to complete what technical teams of the three organizations had prepared in the recent past, namely the preparation of a new 5 year strategic plan to protect the prized mountain gorillas and their habitat across the national borders, work together in tourism-related activities and, by promoting the Virungas as a destination, generate more revenues and equitably share benefits.

Gorilla tourism in Uganda and Rwanda is among the hightest grossing tourism activities and remains, inspite of efforts to diversify the products and promote visits to other national parks and game reserves, the highest profile attraction the countries are known for. Congo in contrast, as a result of conflict over the past decades in the East of the country, has not been able to develop the full potential of gorilla tracking tourism and related activities and therefore is keen to eventually reap a peace dividend when full order is eventually restored.

Rica Rwigamba, in her sttatement, reportedly focused on the need to improve the livelihoods of the people living in the vicinity of the respective national parks, while Dr. Seguya welcomed the positive changes in the new document compared to past cooperation, as a number of loopholes in the transboundary management of gorillas was now addressed. It was noted by tourism sources from Kigali however that the former commonality of using the same tariffs across the three countries had not been brought back, leaving each country for now to set their own charges. Rwanda presently charges non-resident foreign tourists US$750 per person and has no off or low season tariffs, something the Uganda Wildlife Authority has successfully introduced over the past two years, allowing them to attract more visitors during the time of year when permit sales are off peak and every additional tourist attracted to Uganda will bring that crucial extra income for UWA and the tourism sector.

Good news for overall for the future cooperation between the three countries under the Greater Virunga Transboundary Cooperation, which secretariat is based in Kigali.


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The sixth day is a day of rest after yesterday's long day. Visitors can either relax by canoeing on Lake Bunyonyi or go swimming. Cycling and birding are other activities to relax one's mind after Bwindi.  On the seventh  day after breakfast, travelers set out on a four hour scenic drive to Lake Mburo National Park for a safari in search of élan antelope, zebra, impala and is ended with a boat ride on the lake. The final day of this memorable adventure has this safari returning to Kampala and onward to the airport.

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