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Satellite conservation centres are a good move

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Mr Karim Masaba, the MP for Industrial Division, Mbale City, plants a tree to launch a zoo establishment in his constituency after NFA handed over a land title to UWEC at the weekend. PHOTO/DERRICK WENANI

Yesterday in our story, “ New Mbale Zoo to boost tourism, trade” we reported about the establishment of a zoo in Mbale City, which is expected to boost tourism and trade in the area.

This follows National Forestry Authority’s donation of 37 acres of land in Mbale Central Forest Reserve on Mbale-Tororo road to Uganda Wildlife Conservation Education centre  for the establishment of satellite conservation centres aimed at boosting regional tourism.

First, we welcome this because tourism continues to boost our Gross Domestic Product. For instance, foreign nationals continue to dominate Uganda’s tourism with a share of 89.2 percent. Asia (4.4 percent); Europe (3.1 percent) and the Americas (1.9 percent) follow in that order. With tourism earnings rising to $1.025b in 2023, the international tourist receipts alone grew by 48.5 percent from the previous year.

The latest development comes amid calls by the ministry to rally more Chinese nationals to visit Uganda following the launch of the Chinese Dragon Boat race in Entebbe on Sunday.

Importantly, centres similar to the one in Mbale will also be established in Kyenjojo, Gulu and Mbarara districts targeting both local and international tourists. The zoo will host various species, including birds, reptiles, plants and animals such as black and white colobus monkeys.

Dr James Musinguzi, the executive director of UWEC, said the new satellite conservation centre will  save students from Mbale and neighbouring areas the journey to the Entebbe centre.

“Most students visiting our centre in Entebbe come from upcountry schools, incurring significant expenses. This satellite centre in Mbale will host various species facilitating conservation education and reducing transport costs for students,”he said.

Clearly this is good news for students and parents who have always had to incur unnecessary costs and make long journeys to Entebbe so that their children can make the annual school trips to the ‘Entebbe Zoo” .  Now that the ‘zoo’ has been brought closer, learning will be more experiential, and more learners will be able to see what they have only been studying in theory. Because the satellite centres are closer, one will not have to wait to get to a particular level of learning to go see animals at the zoo.

The satellite centres apart from increasing revenue from foreign tourists should be able to encourage local tourism as well if well marketed and incentivised. 

It’s a win on all fronts even for the traders who will benefit from the influx of visitors. It is now up to all stakeholders to make sure that they make the most of this development, especially in terms of sensitization of local communities, marketing, development of the centre, maintenance, and management. These satellite centers are a good addition to our tourism industry.

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