Uganda, the pearl of Africa without the crested crane is almost impossible to imagine! Sad news from the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities in the country say that this beautiful bird is facing great threats of extinction. It has been reported that this symbol of identity and heritage together with the shoebill stork could soon be no more if encroachment on its habitat continues. This unique bird, the crested crane and the shoe bill have been listed as the Uganda’s top most endangered birds according to the latest 2012 birds’ population monitoring report conducted by the same Ministry – of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities.
In Uganda, there are about 200 shoe bills apparently living from more than a thousand in 1989 yet only eight thousand crested cranes are left, down from thirty five thousand in 1989, just as the report says. The principal wildlife officer, Mr Akankwasah Barirega, and the acting public relations officer at the Ministry of Tourism, says Uganda presents the highest opportunity to see shoe bills in the world as the bird is a vulnerable species getting extinct world over. The principal further stated that if those responsible do not act right away, Uganda may lose its national bird just like Nigeria did with the black-crowned crane which is nowhere to be found now.
Uganda just like Rwanda does not only have birds as a tourist attraction but also other activities such as wildlife tours, mountaineering, white water rafting, gorilla tours among others. The principal continued and said that the developers should spare wetlands as they are the habitats for these lovely bird species. There is a need of supporting everybody to save our heritage. Uganda without cranes will be a national disaster. The causes of decline include habitat destruction, especially of wetlands, disturbance through grazing, hunting for domestication and or trade, live trapping for domestication, over exploitation of wetland resources, urban expansion and illegal trade. Uganda has 11 per cent of global bird diversity which is 50 per cent of Africa bird species diversity but conservation of birds in Uganda is still in its infancy.
Mr Barirega said the government has currently partnered with conservation organizations such as Nature Uganda and UN African Eurasian Water board Agreement to develop action plans for conservation of Cranes and Shoe bills not only in Uganda but also across the entire range states. Mabamba Bay in central Uganda is now a global tourism site for seeing shoe bills whereas Kabale and Bushenyi districts have crane conservation programmes under Nature Uganda. Mr Akankwasah Barirega, added that promoting community based tourism in habitats with these much coveted birds has started so that the local people can benefit through tourism birding in Uganda.
Uganda is globally known as the bird heaven and birding is one of the biggest tourism products for Uganda. According to the Ministry of Tourism, Uganda generates over six thousand US Dollars each year from birding tourism in particular. This goes to all the visitors into Uganda, Rwanda or any other East African country especially the birders; ecology involves a cycle of the different partners in the environment. Birds feed on the different features such as insects, crops among others so all sectors need to be supported and this can be done by involving in other activities such as wildlife viewing, gorilla tracking, chimpanzee habituation to mention but a few.
Credits: This story was shared by Nakimera Olivia of African Gorilla Tours.