A couple of years ago, Zakayo, the long- serving chimpanzee at Uganda Wildlife Conservation Education Center (UWEC), received a more dignified burial than many Ugandans can ever hope for, and his birthday celebrations were always a source of ire in some circles that care less about wildlife.
Naming ceremonies for mountain gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable and Mgahinga national parks are often accompanied by ceremony and much fanfare.
And now the animal lovers have delivered another fruit of their labour of love: Uganda’s first animal ambulance at UWEC, regardless how many human accident victims are still bundled onto police pickup trucks because of a shortage of human ambulances.
For wildlife fans and the Paradise Wildlife Park in the UK who made the ambulance donation, that is not the issue here; animals too have rights and need to be treated with dignity. After all, tourism is still Uganda’s top forex earner, by far!
The UWEC executive director, James Musinguzi, unveiled the ambulance at their premises in Entebbe last Wednesday.
The donation is part of an 11-year-old partnership between Paradise Wildlife Park and UWEC, which has also seen the latter’s staff trained in wildlife conservation.
The 50,000-pound vehicle (about Shs 243m) is fitted with a strong lighting system to enable rescuers move to the different animal habitats even during darkness, a dash camera that enables management to track the movement of the vehicle especially in dangerous places and other custom-built amenities.
The ambulance will be able to carry wild animals especially in the cat species, which include cheetahs, lions and leopards.
It will also carry chimpanzees, baboons and other primates to locations where they can be treated and rehabilitated.
UWEC rescued up to 441 birds of different species, 180 reptiles and 284 mammals between 2014 and 2019 that resulted from the conflict between human activity and wildlife.
The zoo has often been called in to capture crocodiles in communities that feel endangered by the animals, as well as to recover parrots, monkeys and other species being illegally kept as pets, among others.
Musinguzi said whereas the ambulance is a great achievement for the wildlife industry, government needs to buy a lot more in order to improve the industry, which serves as an enabler for Uganda’s tourism.
“Time will come when it is overwhelming, because the numbers are big and this is the beginning. One vehicle cannot be enough for the whole country,” Musinguzi said.
A hotline has also been set up for a search and rescue team under a new structure put in place by the new wildlife law that will provide for more jobs for personnel in the search and rescue department to immediately help animals endangered by illicit wildlife activities and diseases.
Barbara Alapo, the team leader of curators at UWEC, said communities that encroach on wildlife habitats have negative perceptions against some wildlife and will kill them on sight.
“We have had cases where animals are picked in very sad situations…some are beaten to death, for example owls [which are considered bad omens in many Ugandan cultures],” Alapo said. “[With the van], rescue efforts are going to increase.”
Aaron Witnall, an officer from Paradise Wildlife Park, the lead organization that donated the ambulance, said there is need for all stakeholders to look at wildlife as a contributor to the country’s tourism earnings and preserve them.
Currently, tourism brings in the dollars, yet to many Ugandans, animals are not worth any special treatment unless when being reared for meat and milk.
In places where humans and wildlife have to share spaces, the conflict has often resulted in the death of both humans and scores of animals.
Flavia Kabahenda, the UWEC board chairperson, said illicit wildlife activities such as poaching and illegal hunting remain a huge challenge that requires multinational cooperation so as to protect the remaining wildlife across the world.

History of Murchison Falls National Park
Murchison Falls Conservation Area is one of the oldest, and is the largest, protected area (PA) in Uganda. It is comprised of Murchison Falls National Park, Bugungu Wildlife Refuge and Karuma Wildlife Refuge. Currently, the national park itself encompasses 3,893 sq.km. Bugungu Wildlife Refuge (501 sq.km) and Karuma Wildlife Refuge (678 sq.km) are adjacent and act as buffer zones for the park. In addition is Budongo Forest Reserve which overlaps parts of both wildlife reserves, and covers an additional 591 sq.km.
This makes a total of 5,663 sq.km of space that is under some level of protection through controlled use. The national park and the two wildlife reserves are managed by the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) as the Murchison Falls Conservation Area (MFCA) and the Budongo Forest Reserve is managed by the National Forestry Association except where it overlaps with UWA-managed lands.
Between the years of 1907 and 1912, the inhabitants of an area of about 13,000 sq.km were evacuated due to sleeping sickness spread by tse-tse flies. This paved the way for the establishment of the Bunyoro Game Reserve in 1910, which encompassed roughly the area south of the Nile River that is now part of the National Park in Masindi District. In 1928 the boundaries were extended into Gulu District north of the river, and the resulting protected area (PA) became known as the Bunyoro-Gulu Game Reserve.
As the human population had already been evacuated due to sleeping sickness, it was possible to establish this game reserve without displacing any of the local people for the sake of the park. In 1932, the Budongo Forest Reserve was established. This became the first commercial logging concession in Uganda, and to date is one of the most intensively studied “working” forests in the world. The boundaries of this forest continued to expand over the next thirty years until they reached the current size of 825 sq.km. Much animosity was created by this process as locals lost land and never quite knew where the boundaries were due to the frequent changes.
In 1952, the British administration established the National Parks Act of Uganda. After forty years of reduced hunting in the Bunyoro-Gulu Game Reserve, the animal populations had expanded to an extent that justified upgrading the reserve, which became Murchison Falls National Park, one of the first two national parks, along with Queen Elizabeth NP. By the mid-1960’s, Murchison Falls had become the premier safari destination in all of East Africa, with over 60,000 visitors per year.

Tooro region in western Uganda is the PEARL of the “Pearl of Africa”. It has a lot of beautiful features, attractions, activities and many friendly people that make it one of the best places to travel in the world. Here are 20 reasons why:
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1. Stunning Crater Lakes. Tooro region has over 60 crater lakes, making it the region with the greatest number of crater lakes per sq. km in the world! The crater lakes are so beautiful.
2. Kibale Forest National Park Uganda. Located a few kilometres away from Fort Portal tourism city, it is the premier chimpanzee tracking destination in the world.
3. Bigodi wetland sanctuary. Rich in biodiversity and scenic beauty, the Sanctuary is a must visit. It is famous for red colobus, black and white colobus, red-tailed monkey, bushbuck as well as mongoose.
4. Africa's magnificent mountains: Rwenzori. This is Uganda's only snow-capped mountain range. The Rwenzoris are a world-class hiking and mountaineering destination.
5. The Tooro kingdom palace. Looking down over Fort Portal city from its highest hill, the palace is worth a visit purely for its 360-degree panoramic views.
6. Amabeere Ga Nyina Mwiru Caves, the world’s first dripping “breast milk”. Tooro is famous for the Amabeere Caves and Nyakasura waterfalls linked to the rich Chwezi culture.
7. Tooro is the gateway to various national parks and tourist attractions including Semuliki, Queen Elizabeth, Bwindi Impenetrable, Rwenzori, Semuliki Wildlife reserves and hot springs like Sempaya.
8. Birds, birds, birds!! Tooro has over 1000 species: pretty, beautiful, stunning, huge, noisy, elegant, comical, graceful, they’re all here.
9. Weather. Even when it rains, the sun comes out a few minutes later. Tooro's climate is usually pleasant with an average annual temperature range of 18-27 C.
10. Beautiful scenery with green vegetation. Tooro is one of the world’s greenest regions. More than half of Tooro’s land area is under green cover.
11. Home-grown Tooro botanical gardens. The gardens have a lot of indigenous plants and trees, as well as herbs, flowers, trees, natural dyes, vegetables and medicinal plants.
12. Food menus. The food menus in Tooro feature some delicious and truly traditional recipes. Akaro (millet bread) and Firinda sauce is arguably and exclusively a Tooro best and most respected dish.
13. Greetings! In Tooro, you feel loved even before talking to anybody. We love the time and care Tooro people take to greet each other properly using empaako.
14. Sense of humour. Tooro's people have such a good welcoming heart. Difficult situations tend to be dealt with a great sense of humour, which is so refreshing.
15. The Tooro Sunrise and Sunset. A reason to get up early and a reason to have a drink in your hand.
16. The rich cultural dances. There is certainly more to dance than its literal meaning. The Folk dances such as Runyege, amakondere and others are about history; about traditions and exotic beauty of Tooro.
17. Youngest king and beautiful ladies. King Oyo Rukidi IV is the youngest ruling monarch worldwide in the Guinness Book of records. And the ladies from Tooro are so beautiful.
18. Beautiful tea plantations. Tooro is famous for its tea. This naturally gifted region has a cool climate that favour tea growth. The view of the tea fields is astonishing.
19. The rich culture of traditions. The people of Tooro enjoy a rich culture of oral tradition, tribal customs, indigenous handicrafts, patriotism, and very high self-esteem.
20. Tooro Golf Course. Located in Fort Portal, the course sits on 7 acres of land. With its green outlook and the ever-blowing strong cold breeze, Fort Portal Golf Course is gifted with nature & hospitable natives.
We could have found more! So, tell us what would be in your top 20 things you love about Tooro.
Don't forget to SHARE and LIKE our page for more resources on Tooro’s beauty, culture & traditions.

KAMPALA: An article titled, 52 places to go in 2020 published in The New York Times travel magazine puts Uganda in 30th position, describing the Pearl of Africa as a Primate capital and birder’s paradise.
“Landlocked in east-central Africa, Uganda has long been in the shadow of Kenya, Tanzania and other countries more popular with visitors on safari. But the Pearl of Africa, with its own rich wildlife, is set to become more accessible, thanks to the resurrection last summer of the country’s national carrier, Uganda Airlines,” reads in part the article published on January 9.
The same article outlines key features such as Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, a renowned mountain gorilla sanctuary in south-western Uganda a UNESCO World Heritage site, as a home to roughly half the world’s mountain gorillas.
“The dense forest mountain park, which ranges in elevation between 3,810ft and 8,880ft, also features a scenic waterfall trail framed by ancient ferns and wild orchids, and is a birder’s paradise, with 350 species of forest birds,” the account further describes.
Others on the list
Other destinations on the list (as selected by a wide group of members on the Times Travel desk) include, Washington, British Virgin Islands, Bolivia’s Rurrenbaque, Greenland, Kimberly region in Australia and Paso Robles in California. Others are, Sicily, Salzburg in Austria, Japan’s Tokyo and Caesarea in Israel.
Selection Criteria
According to a subsequent article written on the site by Amy Virshup, the selection process took four months of research, discussion, debate and argument. “We asked our regular contributors as well as The Times’ Foreign and domestic correspondents. We grilled travel pros about what had excited them,” explains the article.
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TAGS: NEWS PEARL OF AFRICA ,
BWINDI IMPENETRABLE NATIONAL PARK , MOUNTAIN GORRILLA , TOP TOURIST DESTINATION

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