The Conservation Conference has opened today in Kampala at the Uganda Museum Auditorium. The one-day conference that brings together conservation and tourism experts to brain storm and find solutions for conservation challenges in Uganda is part of the ongoing activities in the build up to the United Nations World Wildlife Day (WWD) celebrations due for 3rd March 2019 at Boma Grounds in Arua Municipality.
In his opening remarks at the conference, Prof. Ephraim Kamuntu, the Ugandan Minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities noted that, the organization of this conservation conference was timely and very important in providing a platform to scientifically digest the issues and come up with evidence based solutions to the challenges at hand.
“This is very important and timely theme to us because while we have made strides in recovery of most of our wildlife populations, the rate of human population growth and corresponding pressure on Earth’s natural resources has been increasing at an unmatched rate,” said Prof Kamuntu.
Adding that, “This year’s World Wildlife Day is being celebrated under the national theme “Harmonious living between Wildlife and People.”
Mr. Kamuntu further stressed that, because of the rich endowment, eco-tourism was rapidly gaining prominence in Uganda.
“Tourism continues to be the leading foreign exchange earner for Uganda, bringing in US$ 1.45 billion annually. Tourism which is largely wildlife based contributes about 9% of the country’s GDP. The sector provides 1.173 million jobs in Uganda accounting for 8% of total employment in the country. Uganda Wildlife Authority alone employs about 2500 staff,” Kamuntu said.
“We have over 54% of the World’s remaining population of mountain gorillas, 11% of the world’s recorded species of birds constituting 50% of Africa’s bird species richness. We have 7.8% of the Global Mammal Diversity constituting 39% of Africa’s Mammal Richness; Uganda also has 19% of Africa’s amphibian species richness and 14% of Africa’s reptile species richness, 1,249 recorded species of butterflies and 600 species of fish,” added Kamuntu.
The Minister was however cognizant of the need to balance the needs of human beings and those of wildlife to live together on fixed land size in peace and harmony.
“There are more challenges to wildlife conservation including the impact of climate change that has negatively affected the natural habitats for wildlife,” noted Kamuntu.
He particularly made mention of poaching, illegal wildlife trade and trafficking as challenges that needed attention. “We must continue working together to address these challenges,” Kamuntu said.
Participants at the conference included tourism and wildlife conservation stakeholders; including academia, public sector, tour operators, hotels, NGOs, consultants, among others.
The Minister not only re emphasized how Uganda was endowed with rich biodiversity but also thanked Nature Uganda for organising the conference.
“I therefore want to thank Nature Uganda and all our distinguished partners and membership of the National Organizing Committee for World Wildlife Day events for thinking about this conference. We should have this forum annually,” Kamuntu said.
-World Wildlife Day-
On 20th December 2013, the 68th session of the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 3 rd March of every year as World Wildlife Day to celebrate and raise awareness of the world’s wild fauna and flora and its importance to human survival.
The day is important for Uganda because the State is obliged by the Constitution to protect important natural resources including fauna and flora on behalf of the people of Uganda and for the common good of all citizens
With today’s advancement in information technology, we should be able to engage more often and at global level. We should consider establishment of a wildlife conservation journal where researchers can share their findings and be recognized. This will help Government pick on findings and use them to inform policy and evidence based management decision making. My Ministry is ready to support this process.
– Government of Uganda-
Uganda is one of those countries that values evidence based decision making. That is one of the reasons why a National Wildlife Research and Training Institute was established, and soon the Ugandan government will be unveiling the first ever National Conservation Research Agenda.
The government has promised to remain committed to protecting the country’s wildlife endowment through continuous development of human resource and institutional capacity, securing all protected area boundaries, promoting sustainable utilization, strengthening law enforcement and mitigating human wildlife conflicts.