The Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) has partnered with local lodges, operators (Friends of Queen Elizabeth National Park) and the USAID-STAR program to promote an innovative new traveler experience, The Hippo Census, which took place in February and March. The idea originated with QENP park wardens who suggested a program where visitors can be involved in real conservation efforts by helping count hippo populations alongside the rangers and research/monitoring wardens. 28 seats were available and all the fees collected directly supported the hippo census activity.
In other places this activity is called “citizen science”, but in QENP they refer to it as “experiential tourism”. These activities give visitors a behind the scenes look at how research is helping conserve biodiversity and monitor ecosystem health in QENP.
Video is courtesy of Jennier Krauser, a destination development and community tourism specialist working with the USAID-STAR program in Uganda.
The UWA asked USAID-STAR to help their team develop a product around the Hippo Census and a marketing strategy that UWA could use as a guide for this and future Hippo Census’, as well as other experiential tourism activities like lion and mongoose tracking. UWA and USAID-STAR also developed a short film that generated further interest about the activity.
As part of UWA rescue program, USAID STAR through USFS International Program is donating mountain rescue equipment to UWA. UWA will offer this equipment to Rwenzori Mountaineering Services (RMS), a nongovernmental organization entrusted with a concession to provide trekking tourism services/support on the central circuit trail within the Rwenzori Mountains.
This equipment will be used to help support and integrate the Rwenzori Former Hunters in mountain rescue activities hence supporting community participation in wildlife conservation initiatives.