Arua, March 3, 2019 – Uganda on Sunday March 3 joined the rest of the world to commemorate the World Wildlife Day. In Uganda, the celebrations were held at the Boma Grounds in Arua.

The global theme for this year’s event was, ‘Life below water: for people and planet,’ a focus on marine wildlife and its role to our everyday lives. Uganda on the other hand marked the day highlighting the need for peaceful coexistence between wildlife and humans, an important step in ensuring there’s sustainable tourism.

Rt. Hon Ruhakana Rugunda, Uganda’s Prime Minister while addressing participants said that the NRM Government had prioritized tourism and conservation as fundamental pillars of the country’s economic growth and reiterated the executive’s support to the sector.

“In recent years, government has dedicated substantial funds to support the country’s transport and energy infrastructure. These among other initiatives have been done to support the tourism sector, which is a key sector of economy,” he said.

Rugunda also explained that Government had undertaken several policy and legislation reforms to promote conservation some of which include the formulation of the Uganda wildlife policy, 2014, Uganda Tourism policy, 2015, Uganda Tourism Master Plan and the Uganda Wildlife Bill, 2017 which was recently passed by Parliament.

Held in Uganda under the theme, ‘Harmonious living between Wildlife and People,’ the World Wildlife day was commemorated with officials calling for concerted efforts to ensure there’s less human and wildlife conflict.

Mr. Bradford Ochieng, the Deputy Chief Executive Director, UTB explained that Uganda choose the theme so as to highlight the important role that wildlife plays in the socio-economic transformation of Uganda, and the role important role that communities living near protected areas can play in ensuring that Uganda is a top travel destination.

“Our rich wildlife endowment is the number one competitive edge to develop Uganda into a top tourism destination in Africa and the world at large. Uganda ranks among the top most biodiversity rich countries globally and the theme for this year’s celebrations is befitting,” Ochieng remarked.

He added that Wildlife and their habitats have many social and economic values that generate tourism revenues, support job creation and provide community livelihoods.

Ochieng further explained that tourism is currently the leading foreign exchange earner for Uganda, bringing in US$ 1.45 billion, which is 23.5% of the total exports annually.

With a recorded total of 1.4 million international arrivals, tourism which is largely wildlife-based contributes Ushs 7. 27 trillion or 9.0% of GDP annually, ensuring peaceful coexistence of wildlife and humans have never been more important. 

Prof. Ephraim Kamuntu, Uganda’s Minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities in his remarks disclosed that government, working with stakeholders had undertaken several initiatives towards realizing harmonious living between wildlife and people.

“Wildlife without a doubt is Uganda’s biggest tourism product. We have thus put in place several initiatives to ensure that communities living in protected areas take it upon themselves to protect wildlife given its importance,” he explained.

Adding, “Involvement of local people in wildlife management decision making, sharing of Protected Area revenues with adjacent communities, establishment of wild animal barriers like trenches; buffalo walls, Mauritius live fences, and crocodile cages are some of the initiatives we have undertaken in this regard. We are also empowering communities to engage in alternative livelihoods like community tourism.”

The minister further explained that the recently passed Uganda Wildlife Bill is an important step in ensuring that there is less human and wildlife conflict.

The Bill that repeals and replaces the Uganda Wildlife Act Cap 200 among other things seeks to establish Community Wildlife Committees for each conservation area and a wildlife damage compensation scheme. It also consolidates the law to guide conservation and management of wildlife in Uganda.

Kamuntu noted that these initiatives will be very effective in ensuring peaceful coexistence between humans and wildlife if all stakeholders got actively involved.

On 20 December 2013, at its 68th session, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) decided to recognize March 3, the day of the adoption of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), as World Wildlife Day. The underlying aim was to raise awareness of the several benefits that conservation provides to humanity. 

Uganda, a country that boasts of a rich and diverse wildlife heritage owing to its unique location at the zone of overlap between the savannah of East Africa and the rainforests of West Africa, the World Wildlife Day is an opportunity to celebrate the many beautiful and varied forms of wild fauna and flora.