UWEC Plans Four New Zoos to Promote Eco- tourism, Wildlife Research

Uganda will soon have four new Wildlife Education Centres thanks to an initiative by the National Forestry Authority (NFA) and the Entebbe-based Uganda Wildlife Education Centre (UWEC). The new centres will be established in Mbarara, Mbale, Gulu, and Kyenjojo.

Under the arrangement, National Forestry Authority will provide 60 hectares of land in the forest reserves in each of the earmarked areas to enable UWEC to set up friendly structures for wildlife.

UWEC Executive Director James Musinguzi told Uganda Radio Network that the move is intended to improve biodiversity conservation, extend conservation information to people in distant locations and aid wildlife research. He says each centre will have a unique collection of animals, a community centre and fully-fledged training and research facilities.

For example, we hope to put cats in Mbale, primates in Mbarara, and reptiles in Kyenjojo. However, the final decision on their placements will be informed by scientific research evidence on which animal fits in which place. This strategy is to make management and research easier,” he said.

The Uganda Wildlife Authority, however, needs up to 22 billion Shillings to complete each of the specified facilities. The centre has set aside 5.1 billion Shillings this year for preliminary work on the Mbale centre.

NFA Executive Director Tom Obong said that as the custodians of the country’s forests, they are open to partnerships with anyone with good conservation intentions, as well as their strategy to diversify forest reserve functions without losing their core purpose.

Obong says that NFA’s assessment suggests that the proposal to create wildlife conservation centres will not harm conservation efforts in the forest reserves. Instead, he says, the centres will help restore the natural forest cover in places where exotic trees are currently planted.

The initial agreement allows for five years of operation after which the Authority will consider granting licenses for durations ranging between 25 to 50 years. While UWEC will be responsible for managing the locations, the net revenues collected will be shared.

Obong explained that they selected these particular places because they are now designated as gazetted cities, with sufficient population that even has the financial capability to provide a market to the centres. He added that NFA is also concentrating on other eco-tourism and modern tourism activities in Budongo, Kalinzu, and Echuya Central Forest Reserves.

Uganda currently has one wildlife education centre, also known as Entebbe Zoo, which was primarily established as a reception centre for wild animals that were found as casualties of sickness, injured, orphaned, as well as those rescued from illegal activities. It currently houses up to 253 animals.

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