he Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) will soon rectify the discrepancies in gorilla tourism at Bwindi Park. This follows a special report by The New Vision indicating that UWA staff were allowing more tourists to track the apes than they (apes) can tolerate.
Gorillas become stressed and might catch infectious diseases from many uncontrolled tourists. The report said up to eight tourists track the apes at Bwindi. This violates UWA’s policy of a maximum of six to track a group of habituated (used to humans) gorillas per day.
While meeting concessionaires yesterday, John Nagenda, the chairperson of the UWA board, vowed to punish staff engaged in the scam, saying “heads should roll.’’
The concessionaires provide services such as accommodation in the national parks.
“They (gorillas) are beautiful and endangered animals which we have to protect. We should not stress them. If it is confirmed that some members of staff are involved, they have to be punished. We have the mandate to protect wildlife in this country,’’ Nagenda said.
However, UWA’s executive director Dr. Arthur Mugisha stuck to his earlier statement that human errors caused by lack of computerised bookings were to blame.
He said they would provide computers and internet facilities as well as training for their staff working on gorilla bookings.
Nagenda said within three months, reservations would be fully computerised to avoid the mess that could ruin gorilla tourism in Uganda.
Mugisha said they permit 16 tourists per day to track gorillas in Bwindi, but some of them prefer to track groups of gorillas near the camps.
“That is why some groups have eight tourists and then two on other groups. But we do not go beyond the limit when we are giving out permits,’’ he said.
Mugisha said six is a conservative estimate, which the International Gorilla Conservation Programme put at the inception of the gorilla tourism in the early 1990s.