ENTEBBE – Uganda Wildlife Conservation Education Centre (UWEC) formerly known as Entebbe zoo has unveiled a statue in memory of Zakayo, an iconic chimpanzee that succumbed to chronic gastroenteritis in 2018.
The sculpture was unveiled on Tuesday, June 23, 2020 by Col. (Rtd) Tom R. Butime who recognized Zakayo’s 55-year illustrious life, as that of a primate conservation ambassador in Uganda.
Col. Butime who was on his maiden visit to the center as Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities Minister, also appreciated UWEC’s commitment to wildlife conservation education and encouraged the institution to breed species which are at risk of extinction in the wild.
The Minister said, plans are underway to reopen the tourism center as the country returns to full business following Covid-19 lockdown.
“We hope Covid-19 will end soon and we start operating on a full scale. I have appointed a taskforce to workout modalities how Ugandans can now embrace domestic tourism. We have been lacking as far as domestic tourism is concerned, the task force working together with other partners who will help to promote local tourism,” Butime said.
On his part, the UWEC Executive Director, Dr. James Musinguzi, hailed Zakayo as an icon at the wildlife conservation education center.
“Zakayo was an icon at UWEC. He is a testimony of UWEC’s education and conservation programs. He attracted a lot of tourists to UWEC, but also Uganda at large. He was a respected elder, great father who protected the young chimpanzees and settled family conflicts,” Dr. Musinguzi said.
“He is also credited for the strong family bond among chimpanzees at UWEC. It is, therefore, befitting for us to recognize the efforts and contribution to Uganda’s conservation,” he added.
Last year, UWEC established the Zakayo legacy day on October 27 as a way of honoring Uganda’s oldest known chimpanzee who was a beneficiary of off-site conservation (Ex situ conservation) for 42 years at the model zoo.
Speaking to Africa Tembelea, Dr. Musinguzi also reechoed the Tourism Ministers words, noting that the center will indeed re-open soon but under strict regulations that were pending the approval of the ministry’s Standard Operating Procedures.
“We are going to carry out the reopening in phases by allowing a particular number of people to enter the center [zoo] at a time, though some of the activities we were carrying out will not be opened at the beginning like animal interactions,” Dr. Musinguzi said.
He revealed that temperature of every visitor to the center will be taken using an infra-red temperature gun, after which they will be required to sanitize as per health ministry guidelines.
“We are placing hand washing facilities all through the center at every exhibit among other guidelines,” he said.