Forestry body, UWEC collaborate to set up Mbale Satellite Zoo

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Forestry body, UWEC collaborate to set up Mbale Satellite Zoo
Part of the Mbale forest reserve that has been allocated for the satellite zoo | Gerald Matembu

The National Forestry Authority (NFA) has taken a monumental stride towards conservation and tourism development by part of Mbale forest reserve to the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre (UWEC) for the establishment of a satellite zoo.

The animal sanctuary to be set up on a 36-acre expanse of the forest will mirrorg the esteemed facility in Entebbe.

The official handover ceremony, presided over by the Chairperson of the NFA Board of Trustees, Eng Dr Christopher Ebal, symbolised the initiation of this groundbreaking endeavour.

Stressing the sustainability of the initiative, the UWEC's Board of Trustees chairman, Benon Ssebina Katumba, underscored the strategic placement of the center in Mbale City, aiming to cater to a populace capable of sustaining the zoo's operations.

Additionally, Mbale was given priority due to the availability of land and its strategic location.

"It is in line with our strategic focus that we are supposed to sustainably manage the forest by conserving and protecting it," Ebal said.

he said it was a collective responsibility to conserve the environment and cautioned the local community against destroying the forest.

This collaborative venture, facilitated by a memorandum of understanding between the two sister government agencies, aims at not only bolstering tourism in the region but also raising awareness about biodiversity conservation, thereby mitigating the impacts of climate change.

"Studies have already been conducted on the land in terms of topography and geotechnical assessments of the soil. Designs have been finalized, so what remains is construction. Once we secure the necessary funding, we will commence immediately," said UWEC executive director James Musinguzi.

The proposed facility aspires to serve as an educational and recreational hub for residents across the entire eastern region, including TESO, Bukedi, Busoga, and Sebei, eliminating the need for extensive travel to the Entebbe Wildlife Education Center.

“We have been seeing loads of bus currying students coming all the way from Gulu and other parts of the country to Entebbe,” he added.

Preparations for the project are well underway, pending the acquisition of funding.

The zoo is anticipated to feature a diverse array of animals, including lions, a rarity in the Eastern region, alongside antelopes, reptiles, birds, and more.

Moreover, the initiative endeavors to conserve the black and white colobus monkey, revered in the Elgon region for its skin, which is integral in creating cultural regalia.

Local leaders, including Mbale Industrial Division Member of Parliament Karim Masaba, have lauded the initiative for its potential to alleviate the financial burden on parents traveling to Entebbe for educational tours, as well as for its economic benefits.

The establishment of this regional wildlife center aligns with the government's broader conservation policy, aimed at augmenting public awareness of the ecological advantages of preserving natural habitats.

Through such initiatives, the government seeks to nurture a deeper understanding and appreciation of Uganda's rich biodiversity.

The regional Wildlife Education Centre Satellite is also expected to create jobs , improve community livelihood and generally bring about  development.

The project promises myriad opportunities for stakeholders, encompassing UWEC, NFA, Mbale City, and the Bugisu cultural institution, with plans to harness cultural heritage to promote conservation and tourism.

Mr Musinguzi projected that the project will kick off in July, marking the beginning of an ambitious journey towards the realization of the satellite zoo.

This endeavor encompasses the construction of various essential components, including boundary walls, an education center, offices, and exhibits where animals will be housed.

With meticulous planning and preparation underway, the upcoming months are poised to witness tangible progress as the vision of creating a regional wildlife center in Mbale transforms into reality.

Tourism is one of Uganda's top foreign earners contributing over 7 percent to the national GDP and 6.7 to total national employment.

Tourism revenue raised to $1 billion in 2023 from $687,000 million in the year ending 2022.

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