On 8th July 2013, Nature Uganda in partnership with Nature and Livelihoods Uganda, the Zoology Department of Makerere University, and the Uganda Museum organized a public talk under the topic ‘Uganda at the Cross-roads – Africa’s natural resources at their richest right here in Uganda’. Prominent zoologist and former professor at Makerere University, Prof. Jonathan Kingdon was the Guest Speaker. The talk held at the Uganda Museum highlighted the incredible diversity of Uganda’s mammals and discussed questions related to the threats and loss of mammals in Uganda, what has gone wrong and the way forward to preserving Uganda’s exceptional diversity. Prof. William Banaga, Senior Lecturer – Zoology Department, Makerere University chaired the discussion.
The Guest Speaker, Prof. Jonathan Kingdon discussed African’s major ecological zones, and Uganda’s special position at the intersection, highlighting the reason for Uganda’s incredibly diverse habitats and mammals. However, comparing Uganda’s mammal diversity & population in the national parks of the 1960’s to the present, the prof. expressed his dismay at how much that has been lost.
He cited the example of Lake Mburo National Park that once had more game than the Serengeti of Tanzania, but is now only a shadow of its former self, having lost many of its animals to poachers and much of its land now settled on. He expressed his disgust at how even some portions of the remaining park are being grazed by cattle. “I (tourist) don’t come all the way from the UK to see damn herds of cattle”, exasperated the prof.
The prof. also cautioned against giving up our rich wetlands and ecosystems in return for foreign investments, citing the case of Mabira Forest which the government is contemplating giving a portion to investors for sugarcane growing. He acknowledged the much talked about second “Scramble for Africa”, a project he vehemently condemned and warned against.
His view was that before giving up any land, especially critical areas like forests, a comprehensive study by professional naturalists should be undertaken to ascertain the impact on the environment, and come up with necessary recommendations. The investor should be in position to set up an alternative ecosystem of some sort if he should destroy an existing one, suggested the prof.
Prof. Kingdon further elucidated that we all have our roots in Africa, no matter what race you are. We have our origin between the Colobus monkey and the Chimpanzee, he pointed out as he stressed that animals and plants are fabrics of Africa and that we are all part of this fabric.
Launching the “Mammals of Africa” book series
The Guest of Honor, the Honorable Minister for Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, Ms. Miria Mutagamba was represented by the principle wildlife officer in the Ministry of Tourism Mr. Akankwasa Barirega who read the Minister’s speech in which she pointed out that the launch of books “Mammals of Africa” was a symbol of biodiversity richness and diversity of Uganda. She reiterated the government’s commitment to development of tourism and protection of the biodiversity of the country.
She further expressed her gratitude towards Prof. Jonathan Kingdon for choosing to launch these very important books in Uganda and that it was a vote of confidence to the Government of Uganda. On behalf of the Hon. Minister, Mr. Akankwasa went on to launch the “Mammals of Africa” series.