Tourism and Wildlife Minister Prof Emphraim Kamuntu

The rich wildlife endowment is the number competitive edge to develop Uganda into a top tourism destination in Africa, the Minister of Tourism Wildlife and Antiquities, Professor Ephraim Kamuntu, has said.

According to Prof. Kamuntu, Uganda has 18,783 species of flora and fauna and ranks among the top ten most biodiversity-rich countries globally.

Records show that Uganda is host to 53.9 percent of the world’s remaining population of mountain gorillas, 11 percent of the world’s recorded species of birds (50 percent of Africa’s bird species richness), 8 percent of the global mammal richness (39 percent of Africa’s mamma richness), 19 percent of Africa’s Amphibian species, 14 percent of Africa’s reptile species and recorded 1,249 species of butterflies.

The above specie are the major sources of tourists coming to Uganda, making the tourism sector a leading foreign exchange earner in the country, bringing in US$1.37b annually. This is about 23 percent of the total exports annually, according to available official statistics.

According to the minister, tourism, which is largely wildlife based contributes Shs7.27 trillion to GDP annually as it attracts over 1.3m international tourists.

Official records show that wildlife protected area-based tourism alone generates over Shs70b annually in direct fees. The big cats – lions, leopards, spotted hyena, Cheetah and African wild dog, alongside gorillas are the biggest tourist attractions in Uganda.

Currently, the minister says, about 10 percent of Uganda’s land surface is conserved as wildlife protected areas comprising 10 national parks, 12 wildlife reserves, 10 wildlife sanctuaries and community wildlife areas.

He says the sector provides over one million jobs in Uganda, which is 7.8 percent of total employment.

“Uganda Wildlife Authority alone employs over 2000 staff,” Prof. Kamuntu said in a statement to mark World Wildlife Day celebrated annually on March 3.