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Gorilla population increases as Uganda takes UN Conventions chair

Delegates that attended the UN Gorilla meeting of Parties at Entebbe. (PHOTO/PML Daily)

KAMPALA – The 3rd UN Gorilla meeting of parties hosted in Uganda ended with Uganda taking over the chairmanship.

The chairmanship of the convention was handed over to Dr. Akakwasa Barirega Commissioner Wildlife in Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife, and Antiquities.

The convention was the Third Meeting of Parties to the UN Agreement on the conservation of gorillas and their habitats. The meeting brings together representatives from countries where gorillas reside as well as additional international experts.

Participant countries included: Uganda, DRC, Rwanda, Cameroon, Central Africa, Gabon, Nigeria, Angola and representatives from the United Nations.

This meeting is therefore critical for the implementation of the agreement on the conservation of endangered gorillas and their habitats in Africa.

At the official opening of the convention, Professor Kamuntu thanked the Secretariat for the choice to hold the meeting in Uganda.

He noted that Uganda plays a key role in the conservation of gorillas and other wildlife species with over 18,783 species of fauna and flora so far recorded.

“We have over 50% 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. Uganda is indeed a country gifted by nature,” Prof Kamuntu proudly stated.

Prof. Ephraim noted that Uganda’s success in mountain gorilla conservation was an example of Uganda’s special commitment to conserving flagship species that sometimes cross international borders.

“Not only are mountain gorilla numbers increasing, which is the ultimate sign of success, but also our well-managed gorilla tourism supports the conservation of the many other species that Uganda hosts as well.

Gorilla tourism alone accounts for about 60% of the total wildlife protected area earnings for Uganda.” Substantial numbers of species move across our national boundaries, with birds regularly migrating as far as Europe and Asia; Uganda is committed to protecting all.

The mountain gorillas of Mgahinga Gorilla National Park range freely in the Virunga massif that is shared between Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). This in itself calls for substantial regional and international collaboration, in order to better manage these species that cross borders.

He singled out the success story to recover the iconic mountain gorilla population of the world. “In 1981, the total mountain gorilla population was estimated at only 254 individuals. It’s now 604 individuals.

In 1997, Bwindi Impenetrable population was only 300 and now, growing the mountain gorilla population from 600 to more than 1000 individuals has been a great success story largely delivered by regional cooperation between Uganda, Rwanda, and DRC through the Greater Virunga Transboundary Collaboration Secretariat.

This collaboration, he noted has enabled strong law enforcement, sharing gorilla revenue with communities, mitigating human gorilla conflicts, creating robust research and monitoring systems, and enabling strong community participation have been key to our success. In Uganda, tourism is largely wildlife-based with national parks managed under Uganda Wildlife Authority.

The tourism that emerges from the protection of these parks contributes about 9% of the country’s GDP. Tourism continues to be the leading foreign exchange earner for Uganda, bringing in US$ 1.45 billion annually.

The tourism sector, therefore, provides 1.173 million jobs in Uganda accounting for 8% of total employment in the country.

The minister thanked everyone for the strong support and successes on gorillas that only emerged through the collaboration and hard work of all participants.

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