KAMPALA – The Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) has suspended primate tourism and research in all protected areas in the country as a result of the raging coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
In a statement which Africa Tembelea has seen, UWA Executive Director Sam Mwandha announced that due to confirmation of Coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in Uganda, management has decided to suspend Primate tourism and research in all the protected areas until April 30, 2020.
This, he said was done to protect Uganda’s wildlife heritage, UWA staff and visitors who come to the protected areas and partake in the tourism activities.
According to UWA, the suspension also affects filming of primates and prohibits commercial motorcycles (Boda Bodas) and bicycles from the protected areas.
“Although these measures will affect tourism activities and earnings, they are a necessary intervention against COVID-19,” noted UWA ED Sam Mwandha.
As of today, 14 COVID-19 cases have so far been confirmed in the country, according to an update issued by the Ministry of Health.
This has prompted UWA to form an internal COVID19 task force that will work with the National Task Force and update and guide management on the day to day developments in the containment of the spread of the virus and its implications to wildlife conservation and tourism in the protected areas.
Mr Mwandha also noted that the cancellation and rescheduling of gorilla and chimpanzee permits had been relaxed.
‘We have relaxed the rescheduling of gorilla and chimpanzee tracking. Tour operators are allowed to reschedule tracking permits for a maximum of two times up to March 31, 2022,” Mwanda said.
“This offer is valid even for those who booked with 30% down payment,” he added.
According to UWA, this measure is intended to give tour operators and visitors more flexibility to avoid cancellation of trips already booked.
Uganda is home to 20 primate species with Kibale National Park containing the highest density in all of Africa with a total of 13 including Chimpanzees and the recently discovered Dwarf Galago.
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Mgahinga National park in South Western Uganda are renown for being habitats for the endangered mountain gorillas.
Recent census results released in December 2019, showed that the Mountain gorilla population in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park had increased to over 450 and are distributed in 50 gorilla families.
Of the 50 gorilla groups in Bwindi forest, 19 have so far been habituated for tourism and can be tracked from four different sectors including Buhoma, Ruhija, Rushaga and Nkuringo.
While releasing the gorilla cenus results, former Tourism, Wildlife & Antiquities Minister, Prof. Ephraim Kamuntu noted that the Bwindi gorilla census figures when combined with results from an earlier study in nearby Virunga Massif, suggests the global population of the primates has grown to 1,063.