The course sponsored by the Uganda Wildlife Authority, Tour operators and the private sector was conducted by the Uganda Safari Guides Association (USAGA) at the Makerere University Biological Field Station (MUBFS), Kanyawara in Kibale National Park, Kabarole district closing last week on May 21.
UWA’s acting Director Tourism and Business Services (DTBS) Mr. Stephen Masaba who represented his Executive Director at the closing ceremony, said Uganda has a potential to become the leading birders’ destination in the world with its rare species endowment.
Uganda boasts of 1,047 bird species making up 50% of the bird species in Africa and 10% globally. Masaba observed that the fact that thousands of birders flock to Western Europe to search for birds when UK has less bird species than Uganda is a testimony that our own potential is not tapped.
He said UWA in partnership with other stake holders like USAID-STAR, Nature Uganda and Uganda Tourism Board have set their eyes on promoting the unique product through rigorous training of the professional guides, developing and improving the infrastructure in the national parks four tourists to access the birds with ease, setting up bird hides and intensifying the product marketing including a birding website for Uganda.
The acting director promised that the quality of the trained guides will be enhanced with basics including check lists, binoculars and cameras. He also announced soon, there will be a birding festival with a view to promoting avi-tourism and that the product will be on the next UWA tariffs as an independent product.
The course trainer and renowned bird guide Mr. Hebert Byaruhanga said 80 million people from the United States flock to the rest of the world for birding expeditions because they do not consider Uganda a biding destination.
He challenged UWA to utilize their trained bird guides and offer them an opportunity to specialize in the area instead of deploying them as general ranger guides. Byauhanga also said the trained bird guides in the whole national will be assessed and graded by the Bird guides committee.
He lamented that Uganda currently does not have more than 25 bird guides that can carry out a trip of 21 days .He said we only boast of sight guides.
Patrick Tushabe the UWA Product Development Executive (PDE) notes that the rising demand for bird guides shows there is recognition for the importance of birds. He said Uganda being a convergence area between the Savanna and Tropical forests as well as the Albertine rift makes it so rich with a multiplicity of habitats. He said UWA has got check lists for the bird species and will soon come up with mapping sites besides developing the infrastructure particularly in the conservation areas.
The trainees were taken through guiding, bird identification techniques and client handling among other topics.