- Uganda has marked 2009 “the year of the gorilla” with mass celebrations following the earnings of more than $220 million in 2008 from the endangered mountain gorillas tourism, the Uganda Wildlife Authority has said.
UWA’s Executive Director Moses Mapesa said although less than 10 percent of tourists in Uganda has a chance to view the gorillas, the Authority expects the revenue to increase as the country opens up more gorilla groups for viewing.
Local news reports said only last year, about 842,000 tourists visited Uganda and brought in about $590 million with them.
Mr Mapesa said endangered gorilla population has marketed Uganda as one of the major tourist destinations in Africa with the demand for gorilla tourism on the rise.
Late last week, the UN declared 2009 'Year of the Gorilla' to protect endangered gorilla species in Central Africa. More than half of the endangered mountain gorillas with a population estimated at 700 are in Bwindi while the rest occupy Mgahinga national park.
Although animal rights activists had expressed concern on the rights of gorillas in the mountains, Mr Mapesa assured the Authority would ensure that the gorillas would not be exploited for financial gains.
The state minister for trade, Mr Gagawala Wambuzi, said the endangered gorilla species will be given a platform this year to raise awareness about their plight and threats to their habitat.
The minister said the lack of legal frame work and policy to protect the gorilla will reduce the number of tourists coming to Uganda as well as reducing the number of the remaining gorilla species.
“In fact our eco-tourism is based on wildlife resource especially primates and Mountain gorillas which are said to have put Uganda on the international map,” he said.
The gorilla tourism employs about 5,000 people in tours and travel while national tourism accounts for 17 percent of available job opportunities countrywide.
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