Uganda records 30% increase in tourists
The number of visitors to Uganda’s National Parks has shot up to nearly 30% since the year began.
Generally, the number of visitors to the National Parks increased by 16% over the past five years.
According to Stephen Masaba, the director of Tourism and Business development at Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), the numbers have impressively gone up despite the unfortunate cases of tourist deaths in National Parks.
In February, two tourists died in separate incidents in Murchison Falls National Park.
Monte Guy Watson, 61-year-old US citizen died from his cottage at Bwana Tembo Safari camp outside Murchison Falls National Park in Nwoya district while a German national, Rita Charlotte (76) collapsed near the falls during a nature walk.
She was pronounced dead moments later.
On April 14, another tourist, Pierre Tutian (60) died in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park after tracking the Habinyanja gorilla family.
“These deaths are due to natural causes because investigations have revealed that the deceased came with a history of health issues,” Masaba said.
To avoid more deaths in the parks, Masaba said, UWA is contemplating advising guests with health issues to avoid going close to the animals.
During the media briefing at UWA headquarters in Kampala on Monday, UWA Executive director Samuel Mwandha revealed that four people suspected of having poisoned 11 lions in Queen Elizabeth National Park had been arrested and later released on police bond pending conclusion of the investigations.
The killed lions were discovered on April 11 by a research assistant attached to Uganda large predator (carnivores) project who was tracking lions with a group of tourists on experiential tourism.
“The dead lions had been feasted on by hyenas and vultures, only skeletons were found,” Mwandha said.
Mwandha said that UWA is planning to recruit 500 new rangers to beef up the ranger force to help in addressing poaching as well as the human-wildlife conflicts.
Besides the 11 lions that are suspected to have been poisoned, another lion in the same park was suffocated to death by a hippo after a fight.
“The lion was trapped in a tunnel of a dense thicket with no escape route where her group had killed a war hog. This is purely a case of fighting in the jungle which is considered a natural phenomenon,” Mwandha said.
Despite the deaths, Mwandha said, Uganda still has a high population of lions estimated to be over 400 with about 130 in Queen Elizabeth National Park.