By Ben Ntale and Paul Muwonge
On March 3, 2022, Uganda joined the rest of the world to mark World Wildlife Day. The day was celebrated under the theme, recovering key species for ecosystem restoration.
A February 17, 2022 press statement issued by the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities notes that the theme of the day “draws attention to the critical role that keystone species of plants and animals – many of which are threatened or endangered, play in ensuring ecosystem health and human survival.”
The statement adds, “[The theme] highlights the need to protect and conserve critically endangered species, support restoration of their habitats and ecosystems and promote sustainable utilisation by humans...”
The Inclusive Green Economy Network-East Africa (IGEN-EA) joins the rest of the world to mark the 2022 World Wildlife Day.
We would like to call to attention three species of concern that require more conservation efforts. These include: the grey-crowned crane (commonly known as the Crested Crane), vultures and chimpanzees.
The Crested Crane is of great significance to Ugandans because it is the country’s national emblem. The bird is also important for seed dispersal.
Due to industrial and farming activities in wetlands among other factors, this important bird’s population size has reduced. Wetlands are the breeding grounds for the Crested Crane.
Estimates show that in the past two decades or so, the population of Crested Cranes in Uganda reduced from “about 35,000 in the 1990s to less than 15,000 in 2015”. This is a decline of about 43%! Such a travesty!
Another bird of concern are the vultures, or ensega in Luganda. Vultures used to be seen even in places such as Kampala. In fact, Busega was named after ensega. Vultures and other scavengers play important roles such as the removal of waste and consumption of carcasses. This removes harmful bacteria from the environment to support the maintenance of animal and human health.
Unfortunately, due to habitat loss and poisoning of animals that the vultures feed on, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) estimates that the vulture population in Uganda today stands at no more than 500 to 750 individuals.
Chimpanzees are another endangered species which are even under more pressure due to destruction of forests for sugarcane, oil roads and other activities in the Albertine Graben. Chimpanzees play roles in seed dispersal, scientific research and others.
Birds and chimpanzees also play economic roles. For instance, in the US, birding is a $41 billion industry. In Uganda, birders spend more than other tourists.
Where a safari to a national park may cost $1,500, a birder may spend up to $5,000.
On this World Wildlife Day therefore, let us recommit ourselves to creating awareness and conserving wetlands, forests and other habitats to protect wildlife. Let us reject economic activities that hurt wildlife.
The writers are members of the Inclusive Green Economy Network-East Africa (IGEN-EA).
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