Uganda Tourism Board executive director Mr Cuthbert Baguma told a tourism symposium at the Museum recently that Uganda’s tourism earnings have doubled in the last five years from $440m (Shs1.1trillion) to $800m (around Shs2trillion) last year.
According to the report gorilla tracking contributed over 60per cent of that. Despite the mountain gorillas becoming the face of Uganda’s tourism and their recent population growth, these majestic creatures remain threatened thanks to man’s destruction of their habitat, poaching, armed conflict and disease. In 2010, a Bwindi gorilla was killed after an altercation with men who were illegally hunting in the park. The men were released after paying paltry fines ranging from $19 (Shs47,500) to $38 (around Shs95,000).
Now compare that to the fact that each mountain gorilla can generate up to $1m (Shs2.5b) per year in tourist revenue for the Ugandan economy and you will realise that wildlife crime laws are not strong enough to protect these animals.
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) African Ape Programme Coordinator Mr David Greer said: “Through our partner the International Gorilla Conservation Programme, we are working closely with rangers and law enforcement investigators to ensure that when a wildlife crime does occur, evidence is handled properly so prosecutors can make a strong case in court.”