Solitary mountain gorilla forms new group

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silverback-mafunzo
Silverback Mafunzo – Volcanoes National Park

While tracking one of the regularly followed mountain gorilla groups on Jan. 27, Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund trackers encountered a new group consisting of two females and one silverback gorilla, in the Bikereri area. They immediately recognized one of the gorillas as 14-year-old female Taraja, who was last seen with silverback Giraneza in late September. The silverback turned out to be Mafunzo, who was last seen on Sept. 4, 2013, when he interacted with Giraneza’s group and tried to obtain Taraja. He failed in this attempt and she was still with Giraneza when last seen.

As for the other female, field staff surmised it could be one of three females not seen in some time: Umusatsi, who was not seen since May 2013; Kanama, who was last seen in December; or even Shangaza, who was last seen in late January.

The right answer turned out to be Umusatsi, who was thought to be traveling alone for a long time, so this is good news. She appeared to be a bit more relaxed around human observers this time, but still vocalized with loud pig grunts.

Other groups seen after absences

On Feb. 10, Fossey Fund trackers finally saw all the gorillas of Isabukuru’s group, which had not been amenable to human observation since December, when one of its young members (Icyororo) was injured during a group interaction and a medical intervention in conjunction with Gorilla Doctors was undertaken to address significant injuries to his foot. After these stressful events, the group’s silverback, Isabukuru, began showing aggression toward the trackers and this prevented close follow-up for some time. Trackers reported that now Icyoro’s foot seems healed and that he was moving normally and seems to have recovered. However, more observation is needed and silverback Isabukuru is still showing aggression toward the trackers.

On Feb. 12, trackers reunited with Gushimira’s group, which had not been seen since Dec. 26. The group was encountered by chance, while Fossey Fund trackers were following traces from a big interaction site involving Kuryama’s group. One female, Ukuri, joined Gushimira as a result of the interaction. The other Gushimira female, Kanama, appeared to be fine, along with her infant.

However, Kuryama’s group had split into two, with four gorillas following “beta” male Vuba. The group was on top of Mt. Visoke, which makes searching very difficult. Fossey Fund trackers were joined by anti-poaching teams and local defense workers to create two extra teams – one for Vuba’s group and one for Gushimira’s group, since there were now 11 groups to follow, but by the next day, Kuryama’s group had reunited. This group and many of the others were traveling in very distant locations but generally doing fine.

Truly experience the gorilla trekking in Africa

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We recently had a wonderful and memorable luxury gorilla tour in Africa with Gorilla Expeditions Limited! No matter how far, slippery, strenuous, the ‘path’ is, it well worth it when you encounter a magnificent gorilla troupe at the end. I did find it is bit disappointing (and embarrassing) that there were very few that took advantage of the young men who availed themselves to trek with you, carrying gear, helping with some more difficult terrain, – the small gratuity for this help was well worth it and I highly recommend that one takes advantage of the offer.

It is life-changing to first encounter the mountain gorillas. They truly seem to be as interested in studying the human troupe as we are in studying the gorilla troupe – it is almost unsettling to have the silverback maintain his gaze as if to study you! The full hour in the presence of the troupe passed by too quickly but was full of memories and pictures, both actual and mental, to last a lifetime.

It costs quite of lot of money but the money is used to conserve the gorilla families in their natural habitat. Even the inhabitants of the villages close to the park are being involved in this conservation program which, to me, seems the key to success.

We had requested a close group as my mom and her friend and my brother’s pregnant wife were with us. It turned out to be a 5-6 hour hike to find the mountain gorillas. A group of buffalo (we had to sneak past them) had scared the gorillas off. The terrain was also difficult and my mom’s friend was helped by two porters. When we finally found the mountain gorillas in the mist, it was all worth it. The kids wrestling us each other and the Silverback keeping a look over the family. Even though the hike was difficult, it was definitely one of the main parts of the visit as the terrain was beautiful. We also really got to see the real “Gorillas in the Mist”.

Having done some research prior to the trips, we were ready for anything. Lots of water are recommended and bring snacks especially those that can give you energy kicks. Prepare for rain, mud and tough terrain. I suggest wearing gloves, hut, insect repellent. At the end of the day, the hike can be very easy, but best to be prepared. If you have any doubts about the trek contact Gorilla Expeditions Limited to arrange for this unforgettable experience and at the park before you enter the forest for the trekking hire a porter for a simple fee like $ 10-$ 20 dollars, and your support to hire a porter you are promoting community based tourism hence reducing locals from spoiling the environment and killing the mountain gorillas in the forest.

SOCO International prepares to survey for oil in gorilla park

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London based oil exploration company SOCO International have released details for their exploration of Block V in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Block V takes in parts of the important Virunga National Park; home of the mountain gorillas and famous for gorilla trekking adventures, and location of Lake Edward and its hippo population. The company has released details about an aero-survey that they will be conducting in the next few months. Depending on the results of this survey more detailed investigation will take place later this year and may include compressed air seismic surveying at Lake Edward.

We will not undertake any direct activity within the Park until we have the results of this aero-survey and we have consulted fully with all primary stakeholders. Our current plans have met with the approvals of all the local authorities. Compressed air seismic surveying has been chosen as a way to get detailed rock structure surveys with minimal impact on the lake environment.

SOCO International have stated that no further activities will be taken in the exploration of oil until further discussion with local stakeholders and approval given by the DRC government.  They state that they do not expect any direct exploration within the boundaries of Virunga National Park – a World Heritage Site – for at least 6 months.

Roger Cagle, Deputy Chief Executive of SOCO, commented, “Our activities within the Virunga National Park continue to be very preliminary and confined to an aerial study.  We will not undertake any direct activity within the Park until we have the results of this aero-survey and we have consulted fully with all primary stakeholders. Our current plans have met with the approvals of all the local authorities. We are very aware of the need to protect the interests of all stakeholders within the Park and are working hard to ensure that we do so.”

Exploration for oil within the Virunga National Park would be very difficult to do legally as the park is protected by both national and international treaties. The park itself is a World Heritage Site and Lake Edward is a designated RAMSAR wetland.

This protection leads some conservationists to become concerned that the wildlife park boundaries may be redrawn to allow oil drilling – both exploration and exploitation to take place. Last March 41 DRC MP’s proposed redrawing the park boundaries to allow the oil companies in.

The latest proposals by SOCO International are the first since a ban on oil exploration in Virunga was put in place last year. The ban on the ground exploration is aimed to remain in place until a full environmental impact assessment has been produced. Conservation groups are disheartened by the latest move and by SOCO International continued intention to drill in the Virunga National Park.

Global Witness advocate Colin Robertson remarked, ”SOCO’s plans are a real threat to the protection of Virunga’s wildlife and to people who depend on Lake Edward. The region is also marked by ethnic tensions and the presence of armed militia groups is still a threat to stability. These factors could be exacerbated if oil exploration is carried out without consulting local people. “

Marc Languy, WWF’s Conservation Director for Central Africa, stated “Having survived years of armed conflict, it is devastating to see an oil company jeopardize the park’s people and wildlife in its pursuit of profit. It’s not only because of the drilling and pollution that oil exploration will damage the park – the associated influx of people brings a risk of further conflict which can have a devastating impact on the lives of local communities, and on the park’s endangered species.“

Prices for gorilla tourism as park fees hiked

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Gorilla tourism operators in Rwanda and Uganda have raised concerns that the latest surge in parks admission prices could damage the important ecotourism industry in the country. The news park fees have been increased by 50% for foreign tourists, foreign residents and the East African travelers.

The new fees for gorilla trekking Rwanda announced by the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) will see the admission price for overseas tourists rise from $500 to $750 and $ 600 from $ 500 for Uganda Gorilla Trekking safaris but those who have already paid for their gorilla tour should see no surcharges as pre-booked places are being honored at the old admission charge.

This increase comes at a time when there is significant growth of the gorilla population as well as an increasing demand for gorilla tourism.

gorilla-trekking-rwandaAll 3 categories of Rwanda and Uganda wildlife parks fees increase by 50%. Other park admission fees are also going up with foreigners who are resident in Rwanda seeing their fees increase from $250 to $325 and Rwanda national’s prices increasing from $33 to $50. With Uganda parks increased from $ 35 to $ 40 dollars

The gorilla tour operators are concerned that the latest steep price increases could make them uncompetitive in the marketplace. If the gorilla tours do become too expensive in the current economic climate this could have a devastating impact on the country’s tourism industry as a whole.

Gorilla tours in Rwanda and Uganda set to increase substantially in price.Gorillas are Rwanda’s and Uganda’s top tourist draw. People visiting mountain gorillas are the source for 90% of the country’s wildlife parks admission fees. The gorilla industry made a major contribution to the tourism income which has seen a steady growth over recent years.

In 2011 it has been estimated that tourism was worth $251 million to the country up from $200 million in 2010 which in turn was 14% higher than 2009.

The parks department has defended the increase in the fees by confirming their commitment to protecting the biodiversity of the country’s national parks and the protection of the gorillas.

Gorilla tourism and populations are increasing.Officials point to the growing demand for gorilla tours and an increasing population of the endangered great apes. Since 2005 populations of the mountain gorillas in Rwanda have increased by over 25%.

“This increase comes at a time when there is significant growth of the gorilla population as well as an increasing demand for gorilla tourism. We are very committed to sustain our efforts in conservation in order to protect their environment as well as the rich biodiversity that exist in our national parks.”

The head of Tourism and Conservation at RDB Rica Rwigamba explained, “We have seen a sustained increase in interest for gorilla trek as well as recognition that good conservation can truly contribute to growth of these species. Mountain Gorillas are the only increasing gorilla species population, which is evidence that responsible tourism and conservation go hand in hand.”

Whether the other two countries with mountain gorillas will follow the lead of Rwanda and increase prices is not yet known. But the new prices do make Rwanda substantially more expensive than Uganda fees of $500 and DR Congo at $400.

After winning the gorilla war, Rwanda eyes source of the Nile

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Officially Jinja in Uganda is known to have the source of the Nile but Levison Wood claims the source is in Rwanda

If there is anything that Levison Wood’s River Nile expedition has achieved so far, it is reigniting the debate about the true source of the Nile.

ranoLevison, a British adventurer, is attempting to become the first man to walk the length of the Nile River from its source to the Mediterranean Sea. He wants to outdo the “Ascend the Nile” team, which accomplished the feat by using cars and boats in 2005 and 2006.

The team, which included one woman and five men, one of whom was Cam McLeay, the founder of Adrift Adventure Company, were the first to attempt to outdo John Hanning Speke’s work by claiming to have found a “true source of the Nile in Rwanda.”

Led by locals, the team that started their journey in Egypt followed Kagera River to its longest point up in the Nyungwe forest. It is this point they declared to be “the longest source of the river Nile,” setting the stage for debate about the location of the source of the Nile.

With the help of a GPS, they were able to ascertain the distance between the Mediterranean Sea (near Rashid) to the upper reaches of the Rukarara River deep in the Nyungwe forest.

They reported that the Nile is actually 6718km long or 107km longer than it is generally believed to be. No one had attempted to measure the Nile using modern technology like the GPS.  Most measurements in the past had consisted of laying a piece of string on a map to find the results.

Now, Levison has stirred the debate further. Accompanied by his friend and guide Boston Bwira Ndoole, who lives in Kampala, Levison, on December 3, 2013, embarked on an ambitious year-long expedition to walk the River Nile from its source to the delta. And his choice of Rwanda as his starting point has once again pitted Uganda against Rwanda as who has the true source of the Nile.

The source of the Nile is an important feature for Uganda’s economy. Not only is it an important tourist spot, fetching the country billions of shillings annually. The location of its source will not change the dynamics of the region, but it will at least lead to bragging rights on who owns some of the most important tourist features in the region.

The source of the Nile has held mysteries for thousands of years. The Egyptians sent whole armies to discover its source. But it was not until 1858 when Scottish explorer, John Hanning Speke, settled this debate after encountering a magnificent lake in the heart of East Africa where Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania meet. Naming it Victoria, he proclaimed it to be the fabled source of the Nile at a point he named Rippon falls in Jinja town.

Speke’s choice of Rippon falls was convincing. This is because all upstream tributaries pour into Lake Victoria, which has only one outlet at Rippon falls. Also, given the River Nile’s volume, only a water source the size of Lake Victoria would qualify as its source. Lake Victoria has a surface area of 68,800 square kilometres and holds 2,700 km3 of water.

However, New Age explorers say Speke was wrong. They claim Rwanda’s River Akagera is the largest feeder river to Lake Victoria. That it literally flows through Lake Victoria as the White Nile, contributing about 40% of the outflow from Lake Victoria. But as George W. Magaba, a cartographer with Makerere University explains, a river can’t be the source of another river.

“A river is never a primary source of water; water just flows through it,” Magaba says.

According to the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) website, the major supplier of river Akagera water is Ruvyironza River in Burundi. It, therefore, becomes intriguing that it is Rwanda, instead of Burundi, that is being considered to have the true source of the Nile. Rwanda, which is about the size of Karamoja sub-region, has aggressively marketed itself as a tourist destination, investing $5m annually into marketing its country compared to Uganda’s $300,000.

Today, the country with just three national parks has sandwiched Uganda, selling itself to the world as the home of mountain gorillas when in fact more than half of them are found in Uganda. Rwanda’s naming of gorillas (Kwita Izina) brings in thousands of tourists, while Uganda’s Friend a Gorilla campaign didn’t live to see its first birthday.

Could Rwanda be seizing another opportunity to upstage Uganda on another front?

“Rwanda is simply seizing a marketing opportunity and Uganda tourism is sleeping,” says renowned journalist Charles Odoobo Bichachi. “Kenyan companies market Kilimanjaro as being in Kenya because true you can see it while across the border in Kenya.”

The source of the Nile in Jinja, which was recently ranked among the seven natural wonders of Africa, remains largely unattended to –with dilapidated structures.Many Ugandans are suspicious of Levison’s motives.

“I wonder if he [Levison] got clearance from government and if those at the Tourism ministry who are concerned with the image of our country reviewed and understood the objectives of his exploration,” says Abiaz Rwamwiri, the communication officer of the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) Uganda, pointing out that Levison went to Mama Fiina (a traditional healer) to be bathed with milk. “The fact that he had a following of an international media; he should not have been treated as a tourist but due diligence should have been done to avoid any negative portrayal.”

Rwamwiri says the ministry should have been able to crosscheck if Levison had sinister motives by choosing Rwanda as his starting point. Levison’s journey is being filmed for a four-part Channel 4 series to start broadcasting this year, and he has attracted international attention.

Professor Oweyegha-Afunaduula, who once served as the chairman of the Nile Basin Discourse (the umbrella civil society organization for all the NGOs in the 11 countries that form the Nile basin), says the Nile is a product of the entire Nile basin region.

 

“The Nile gets water from various sources; that is why we are referred to by three names: Nile basin countries, Great lakes region and watershed area,” he explained.

Oweyegha-Afunaduula said the debate about the source of the Nile has neither novelty nor substance. It is a point echoed by Bichachi: “This is a matter of conjecture, not fact. It is largely to nourish the adventure spirit of today’s explorers who want live experience of walking in African jungles.”

Uganda tour firms fights Hotel VAT down to make Uganda Safaris affordable

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The Uganda safari Operators within Uganda’s tourism industry have asked the government to totally abolish the 18% VAT on up country hotels and lodges since the Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) will soon implement a tourism levy in 2014.The operators Uganda Hotel Owners’ Association (UHOA) and the Association of Uganda Tour Operators (AUTO) also want the government to allocate more funds to marketing Uganda as a tourism destination like other countries in the region. This will increase the number of tourists coming for wild Uganda safaris and gorilla tours.

“We’re grateful to the government for having considered our appeal to review charging of VAT on accommodation for upcountry lodges and hotels for at least a year.“But what we’re saying is that the government should abolish the multiple taxation on hotel/lodging facilities and services and instead implement the tourism levy which directly support development in this sector,” Samuel Balagadde the Executive Director of the Uganda Hotel Owners’ Association said in Kampala last week.

Balagadde said the government should continue recognizing the efforts of the private sector in promoting Uganda tourism and maintain the exemption of VAT on accommodation for upcountry lodges.
This he says will protect Uganda’s tourism market and stimulate further development in the sector.

In the reading of the 2013/14 national budget, finance minister Maria Kiwanuka instituted an 18% VAT tax on all hotel and lodge accommodations in upcountry Uganda. However, the parliament budget committee refused to confirm this tax following tough agitation from the tourism private sector.

The tax waiver was later confirmed by the Ministry of Finance permanent secretary Keith Muhakanizi in a letter he wrote to AUTO and UHOA.“I wish to inform you that exemption of VAT on accommodation for hotels and lodges outside Kampala District was reinstated during the passing of the VAT (Amendment Bill 2013/14),” Muhakanizi’s letter read in part.

Bulaimu Kibirige, the Chairman UHOA said it should be noted that tour operators normally sign contracts with foreign tour companies for two to three years based on agreed rates.“Similarly, providers of accommodation like hotels set their prices in brochures and Websites.The abrupt change in prices as a result of the VAT addition on accommodation had resulted into legal actions by clients who had made bookings in advance,” Kibirige said.

Barbra Adoso the Vice President of the Association of Uganda tour Operators said foreign tour operators make expensive brochures and undertake very expensive marketing strategies to market their packages.

“We too spend a lot of money traveling all over the world marketing Uganda as a prime destination at our own expense,” she said.Kibirige said Uganda is still largely an unknown destination and the tourist numbers are still minimal to other East African states.

“We’re committed to partner with the government in strategic marketing of the country’s diverse products to attract leisure travelers,” Balagadde said.

Balagadde said the private sector can work with the government to shape the country image abroad that has been spoilt due to public protests.

Clare’s Update on Saving Gorillas in 2013

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Saving gorillas from extinction is an incredibly enormous and complex task, and it is difficult not to be overwhelmed by the responsibility we have undertaken, as started by our founder Dr. Dian Fossey in 1967. Yet, as I look back at the year just ending, I am so proud to be able to say that our core monitoring and protection efforts now successfully span some 46 years. We continue to adapt to changing (and challenging) circumstances, and to find new ways to address the many threats to the gorillas’ survival. The gorillas are enduring and so are we.

Luckily, we have never been in this alone. First, we have you – our loyal and generous supporters – always at our backs. In addition, our efforts are strengthened by our partnerships with other important organizations, from universities to zoos to major corporations. And then we have local people on the ground where we work in Africa, scientists around the world, and our strong, courageous staff, each working every day toward our mission of saving gorillas.

With all of this support, we are able to take a “holistic” approach to saving gorillas, focusing on all the potential threats to their survivial, even as they change from year to year. For example, in recent years the gorilla groups we monitor have been changing, in terms of their numbers, their ranges and their behaviors. This has led to the need for more trackers to cover new groups and wider ranges, as well as for more study on the gorillas and their surroundings. In fact, in 2013 we monitored and documented a dramatic increase in the number of interactions among gorilla groups.

Our steadily growing scientific studies are addressing the details in all of these areas, and as they are published in scientific journals around the world, are also available to all those who face critical conservation management decisions. We continue to adapt new technologies to our work, such as moving toward collecting data electronically and using remote camera setups to record events in the forest. In addition to our long-term work in Rwanda, we are now collecting exciting new data on the little-studied Grauer’s gorillas in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Yet, even with all this progress, 2013 was not an easy year. We were recovering from sad events in 2012 (when one of our antipoaching camps was attacked and one of our rangers killed) and faced significant budgetary challenges. And here is where you make all the difference: your gifts directly determine whether we can do more than our core mission of protecting gorillas, whether we can continue looking for the best ways to save them, through our holistic approaches, our best scientific endeavors and whatever else it takes to succeed.

We want to thank you for your commitment as we all carry on with this crucial mission. The enduring nature of our supporters, many of whom have been with us for more than 25 years, is matched only by the longevity and commitment of our key African staff. We hope you will continue keeping up with us, through our monthly enews, our Facebook page and our website.

Wishing you all the best, happy holidays and a good New Year,

Clare Richardson

President and Chief Executive Officer
The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International
800 Cherokee Avenue, S.E.
Atlanta, Georgia 30315-1440 USA
Phone: (800) 851-0203
Email: savinggorillas@gorillafund.org
Website: www.gorillafund.org
Facebook: SavingGorillas
Twitter: @SavingGorillas

Brazzaville Trade Show to boost tourism for Rwanda

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Rwanda is to gain more development in the trade and tourism industry due to her participation in the forthcoming regional trade fair that will take place in Congo Brazzaville come March this year 2014. According to a press release by MINICOM, this is not going to be the only fair Rwandan business people will attend since there are many others organized in West Africa for them to attend.

Flights to Brazzaville will be sponsored by the country’s airline Rwandair which will not only be flying to Brazzaville, Lagos and Accra on its added on destination list but also to Doula by March 2014. With the cargo aircraft Rwandair has, goods have been exported to West Africa and will continue being exported.

With such trade fairs, Rwanda will be showcasing investment opportunities and tourism hence helping bring in more investors and tourists into the country. These two sectors will again be supported by the new system of easy Visa processes current in African Union member states that allows citizens to get a Visa on arrival at a certain destination.

According to the press release, this is a great opportunity to Rwandair since the airline can now go to more distant places in Africa. When people participate in such tourism fairs, this helps promote investment and trade in the country hence helping to build it up.

Rwandans, since the genocide, have tried to rebuild the country and so far they have received good results. According to President Paul Kagame success has been achieved because of the sound national vision, discipline and a resilient mindset and theprotection of tourism resources like the mountain gorillas in the volcanoes.

Today, Rwanda safari holidays are very popular, selling like hot cake! Thousands of tourists fly into Rwanda for mountain gorilla tracking, chimpanzee tours, wild game viewing, community and cultural tours, canopy walk, not forgetting genocide memorial tours among tours.

Marriott to take over Protea hotels

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Delicious: Protea Hotels is the largest hotel group in Africa with the most extensive footprint; more than 116 hotels throughout South Africa and six other African countries including Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania.DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania – Marriott International, Inc.  And South Africa’s Protea Hospitality Holdings last week announced a tentative deal in which the US-based chain is to buy Protea’s three brands and management company. 

proteaThe deal is expected to be closed by April 1, 2014.   According to a statement availed to customers signed by Marriot International, Inc. Account Manager, Kirsty Kirsten, under terms of the agreements Marriott will pay approximately about $186 million at current exchange rates, subject to normal closing adjustments.

Protea Hotels is the largest hotel group in Africa with the most extensive footprint; more than 116 hotels throughout South Africa and six other African countries, including Zambia, Nigeria, Namibia, Malawi, Uganda and Tanzania. Protea do serve all luxury international travelers that comes to Africa on their safaris and conferences.

The transaction is subject to receipt of certain third party and governmental consents, including exchange control approval from the South African Reserve Bank and competition approval from the South African Competition Commission and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and satisfaction of other customary conditions for transactions of this kind.

According to the statement, Marriott does not expect the transaction will have a material impact on its 2014 results.

Protea has 116 hotels with 10,148 rooms in seven African countries including South Africa.

After April, Marriott will become the largest hotel company in the Middle East and Africa region, nearly doubling its distribution there to more than 23,000 rooms.

The statement said as part of the transaction, Protea Hospitality Holdings will create a property ownership company to retain ownership of the hotels it currently owns, entering into long-term management and lease agreements with Marriott for such hotels.

The property ownership company will also retain a number of minority interests in other Protea-managed hotels.

At closing Marriott will manage approximately 45% of the rooms, franchise approximately 39% of the rooms, and lease approximately 16% of the rooms.

Marriott and Protea announced on November 7, 2013 their intent to enter into this transaction.

Marriott International, Inc. is a leading lodging company based in Bethesda, Maryland, USA, with nearly 3,900 properties in 72 countries and territories and reported revenues of nearly $12 billion in fiscal year 2012.

The company operates and franchises hotels and licenses vacation ownership resorts under 18 brands. Protea Hotels is the winner of two World Travel Awards for Best Hotel Group in Africa.

About the Author: Mathias, the writer is a senior tour consultant of Gorilla Expeditions Limited, a tour and travel company specialized in organizing Rwanda gorilla trips to Volcanoes national park. They also offer wild game safaris, chimpanzee tours and community walks, visit us on www.rwandagorillatrekking.com for details.

Uganda Wildlife Authority impounds 25 parrots at Uganda-Congo border

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Some of the African grey parrots which were rescued from a smuggler at the Uganda-DR Congo border.

The 21 grey parrots and four brown-necked ones, which were reportedly being smuggled to DR Congo, were impounded at Mpondwe border post.

Officials from the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) in conjunction with Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) have impounded 25 young parrots that were being smuggled out of the country.

According to the UWA, the birds, that include 21 grey parrots and four brown-necked ones, were being smuggled to the DR Congo.

The parrots were reportedly captured from Queen Elizabeth National Park. They were impounded last week at Mpondwe border post on the Uganda-DR Congo border.

The rescue

“Immigrations and security people suspected a box to be contraband. They opened it and found smuggled parrots but the owner had since fled and abandoned his/her loot,” Mr. John Makombo, the UWA conservation director told the Daily Monitor yesterday.

Mr. Makombo said the parrots were taken to Uganda Wildlife Educational Centre (UWEC) for rehabilitation before being released back to the wild. UWEC spokesperson Belinda Atim said the parrots reached the centre in a very poor condition and one of them had died. “They squeeze them in small boxes and were being fed them on fermented stuff,” she said.

Ms Atim added that they were still closely monitoring the impounded parrots in a quarantine enclosure for 30 days before releasing them back into the wild.

Trade in African grey parrots is a lucrative business as it fetches between $1500 to $4000 (about Shs 3.9 million to Shs10 million) on the international market. A total of 150 African grey parrots were recently impounded in Kasese District on the Uganda-Congo border.

Uganda is regarded as Africa’s best birding destination for birders and other nature enthusiasts. With over 1,000 species of birds mainly in large well protected wilderness areas, a birding trip to Uganda is the most leisurely in the east and central tropical birding destinations. Uganda has more bird species per square kilometer than any other country in Africa. Roughly the same size as the UK, Uganda can boast a national list of more than 1008 species (Uganda Bird Atlas by Cars well et al, 2005). This figure represents more than half the bird species that can be found in the whole of Africa. The key to Uganda’s diversity is its variety of habitats, which include arid, semi-dessert, savannahs, lowland and montane rainforests, wetlands, volcanoes and an Afro-alpine zone. These are all interesting habitats in terms of structure and content. So it would be interesting to know how many species out of the total country list could be recorded on a 1day list if there was to be birding in all these habitat types on that particular day.

 

Birds are an important part of our ecosystems. They are universal, penetrating the remotest deserts, oceans and mountains on earth. They are numerous, widely distributed, easily observed and form a vital part of our natural heritage. In Uganda there are over 1,000 species of birds which is almost the same number as the whole of Europe supports. Uganda has more species than any other country in Africa and compares very well with the top countries in South America. However, very few Ugandans are aware of this rich diversity of birds present in this country. For this reason, African Jungle Adventure would like to improve this awareness through the Uganda birding expeditions and also to promote avi-conservation and avi-tourism.