The President said economics are on the tourism side, a sector that has overtaken traditional cash crops as the leading foreign exchange earner for Uganda valued at 805m$ per annum. He said he had resisted pressure from various communities asking him to degazetted part of the protected areas for settlement and agriculture.
Flanked by the minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities Mrs. Maria Mutagamba and her deputy in charge of Wildlife Ms Agnes Akiror and UWA Executive Director Dr. Andrew Seguya, Mr. Museveni said he was happy that UWA is forming an intelligence unit from the just trained ranger force which he urged to trace the criminals responsible for rampant poaching particularly for elephants.
He said the poachers who hunt down elephants for their tusks ad poison lions are enemies of our economy and there is need for a strategy to deal with them decisively. He wondered how elephant’s poachers carry heavy tusks through the region arguing that there must be sophiscated syndicates dealing in the trade. He implored those who poach animals for meat to keep their own domestic animals.
The President also urged the UWA management to consider promoting the local indigenous names for the wildlife species instead of concentrating on the foreign ones like bush bucks; Jacksons heart beast and Uganda kobs. He said it was ridiculous for Ugandans to use foreign names for our natural heritage sites such as Lake Albert and Victoria which have traditional names.
On the issue of problem animals which raid neighbouring communities’ plantations, the President urged concerned authorities to consider electrical fences around protected areas to check the straying animals. He proposed a meeting with the UWA Board of Trustees in May to discuss a wide range of issues on wildlife management.
To the new rangers, the head of state urged them to ensure they keep healthy, be more knowledgeable about wildlife, and acquire more skills including tracking of poachers using modern modes of communication and being loyal to the employers by observing maximum discipline.
Later the President received an award of excellence in Leadership for Conservation from the Tourism fraternity after a citation from the former permanent secretary of the Tourism Ministry and chairman Board of Trustees of UWA, Mr. Benjamin Otto .Mr. Museveni was recognized for being at the forefront of struggle to conserve Uganda’s heritage including resistance to degazettement of protected areas and increasing Uganda’s national parks from four in 1986 to ten currently.
The minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities (MTWA) Mrs Mutagamba thanked the President for the creation of Special Wildlife Integrated Force for Tourism (SWIFT) and the Tourism Police to supplement the efforts of UWA rangers in combating illegal activities in the protected areas.
UWA Executive Director, Dr. Andrew Ggunga Seguya appreciated the President’s recent pronouncement against encroachment on protected areas and pledged to work tirelessly with stake holders in securing the integrity of the parks.