The Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife, and Antiquities, together with agencies including the Uganda Tourism Board, the Uganda Wildlife Authority, the Uganda Wildlife Education and Conservation Centre, and departments under the ministry including the Uganda Hotel Tourism and Training Institute, the Wildlife Department, the Tourism Development Department, the Uganda Museums Department, and the Uganda Wildlife Research and Training Institute will on Friday March 01st 2023 join the rest of the world to commemorate the 10th edition of the United Nations World Wildlife Day 2023 at King George Stadium in Tororo district, Eastern Uganda.
This year’s celebration will run under the theme “Partnerships for Wildlife Conservation”. His Excellency President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni will be the Guest Of honour as the days event will be graced with attendance from Ministry officials including Tom Butime, the Hon. Minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, Hon ministers, members of parliament, diplomats, permanent secretaries, board members and executive directors of affiliated institutions, development partners, media and members of the public.
During the 68th session of the United Nations General Assembly on December 20th, 2013, the UN General Assembly, through resolution 68/205, designated March 3rd as World Wildlife Day to celebrate various species of flora and fauna as well as to raise awareness about the various benefits of conservation to humanity.
This year’s 10th edition on March 3rd will mark the 50th anniversary of the United Nations Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild fauna and Flora (CITES) which deals in regulation of international trade in wildlife and wildlife products. This convention is an international agreement between governments to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten the survival of the species. To date, it has granted varying degrees of protection to more than 37,000 species of animals and plants.
The events for World Wildlife Day 2023 will also honour people and individuals who are making a difference in wildlife conservation.
The wildlife economy remains a significant component of the wealth of many countries and governments that utilise wildlife resources as economic assets for long-term growth and development. Wildlife and natural environments provide enormous benefits to human livelihoods, such as food, clean water, clean air, and resilience to climate change and disease. Wildlife resources also support local, national, regional, and global economies through tourism, forestry, hunting, and ecosystem services, among others.
The value of Uganda’s regulated wildlife trade is estimated at USD 3 million. At the national level, forests are anticipated to contribute USD 190 million to local people’s livelihoods. The total economic worth of Uganda’s forests, including marketable and non-marketable value, is roughly UGX593.24 billion (USD 168 million), or around 5.2% of GDP. According to USAID, resources of UGX 556,955,900 (about USD 156,500) were shared with communities surrounding protected areas in 2018.
Uganda has become a popular eco-tourism destination in Africa due to its vast wildlife endowment, which gives a firm foundation and a competitive advantage over other countries. Tourism had indeed become Uganda’s main foreign exchange earner, generating approximately USD 1.6 billion per year and attracted 1.5 million visitors annually (prior to COVID-19). Visitation to national parks and wildlife reserves had been steadily increasing since 2014. Gorilla permit sales earned approx. USD 26 million in FY 2018/19.
Tourism is also a significant source of foreign exchange revenues, which are critical for macroeconomic stability and debt service. The sector employs approximately 667,600 people and accounts for 8% of overall employment in the country. The Uganda Wildlife Authority alone employs approximately 2500 people.
Uganda is one of the world’s most biodiversity-rich countries, with 53.9% of the remaining mountain gorilla population, 11% of recorded bird species, 8% of global mammal diversity (which is 39% of Africa’s mammal richness), 19% of Africa’s amphibian species, 14% of Africa’s reptile species richness, and 1,249 butterfly species.
Conservation of wildlife and tourism had a devastating effect since the outbreak of the Covid – 19 pandemic, which has been exacerbated by restrictions amplified by lockdowns that resulted in the closure of airports and parks, resulting in a substantial fall in visitor numbers from over 1.5 million to 500,000. This resulted in a decrease in revenue generation and a negative impact on the implementation of key conservation community development programmes, as much of the revenue generated by tourism activities was re-invested into conservation activities, though there is a ray of hope for tourism performance to improve as the economy, international borders, airports, and aerospace are fully open for travel to bounce back like before.