Minister of Tourism and Antiquities, Maria Mutagamba, has signed a regional agreement to promote gorilla conservation in Uganda, Rwanda, and DR Congo. The three countries share the only remaining population of mountain gorillas estimated at 880 globally. The regional agreement will also help to promote research and tourism as well as sharing of revenue where gorillas cross from one country to another.
“We are happy that the three countries have concluded a treaty that advances conservation of the highly-endangered species,” Mutagamba said before signing the Virunga Trans boundary Collaboration treaty in the ministry boardroom at Rwenzori Courts in Kampala. The agreement was signed by the respective ministers of tourism and conservation in DR Congo and Rwanda on September 22.
The Congolese government has allocated $100,000, which is a mandatory contribution from each of the three countries to implement the agreement. “We should make this self-sustaining through gorilla tourism,” said Mutagamba, adding that the countries need to increase the visibility of gorillas and that this could be done through the “Virunga Day” so that gorillas are known internationally.
After the signing of the treaty, Mutagamba said the proposed treaty will have to be ratified by Parliament and that this will conclude the legal process. Dr. Muaba Tshibasu, the Executive Secretary of Greater Virunga Trans-boundary Collaboration, the Executive Secretary of the Greater Virunga, described the signing of the treaty as an important step. He said the Virunga landscape is a hot spot for biological diversity, which should be conserved in a sustainable manner. “I can tell you that the most endangered species is the Mountain Gorilla, but there is also the African elephant which is being hunted by poachers who searching for ivory,” Tshibasu said. “We have a duty to protect the endemic species.”
Commenting on the impact of the insecurity on conservation of the gorillas in eastern DR Congo, he said, “The cooperation will help us to face the challenges. The security situation does not allow us to work the way we would have wanted, but the treaty is going to help us to illegal trade.” He cited timber as part of the illegal trade that is undermining the forest landscape which is an important habitat for the gorillas.
The meeting was attended by James Lutalo, the Commissioner in Charge of Wildlife; Dr. Andrew Seguya, the Executive Director of the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA); officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Rwanda’s Ambassador to Uganda, Frank Mugambage; and the Congolese Deputy Ambassador to Uganda, Jean Pierre Massala. Others were Dr. Muaba Tshibasu, the Executive Secretary of Greater Virunga Transboundary Collaboration; Grace Kyomuhendo, the Deputy Executive Secretary (Finance); James Byamukama in Charge of Programs; and Juvenal Mukeshimana, the Executive Assistant.
The agreement concludes about two decades of networking spearheaded by the wildlife and conservation agencies in the three countries. In recent years, the countries decided to take the collaboration to a higher level by creating the Greater Virunga Trans-boundary Agreement. The Council of Ministers meeting on September 22 where the Ministers of Rwanda and DR Congo signed the agreement was preceded by the meeting of the experts of the three state parties to the Treaty held on September 21, 2015 which was chaired by the Director General of Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature. The experts reviewed the agreement which was adopted and signed.
Source: eTN Global Travel Industry News