Who should get the rent for permission to tag along after great apes?
Feud over gorillas tracking-permits
These African writers see the justice in nature’s value benefiting the residents who must share the nature. We combine two 2008 articles from Uganda’s main news site, New Vision, by reporter Gerald Tenywa on April 6, and by Arthur Mugisha, who works with Flora and Fauna International, on April 9.
Tenywa: A row has erupted between investors in tourism and the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) over the allocation of exclusive gorilla tracking permits to Nkuringo Conservation Development Foundation. UWA granted six permits to the foundation, leaving two to be shared among several tour firms. Everyday, eight permits are given to tourists to track the gorillas at Nkuringo, on the southern side of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
Tour firms accuse UWA of encouraging a ‘monopoly’ and threatening the survival of their businesses. The foundation was formed by the local community of Nkuringo, which is made up of Nteko and Rubuguri parishes. Out of a population of 30,000, at least 3,000 are members of the foundation. According to the UWA executive director, Moses Mapesa, the permits were given to Nkuringo as compensation since the gorillas graze on their land.
The foundation, which has a partnership with the Uganda Safari Company, recently secured $250,000 (sh425m) for the construction of an eco-lodge at Nkuringo. Uganda Safari Company will invest $750,000 (sh1.275b) for operating the eco-lodge for 10 years but the facility will remain a property of the local community. The eco-lodge is expected to be ready by July 1. The chairman of the foundation, Cryisostom Sabiti, said the revenue from the project would be used to improve the livelihood of the community. According to the agreement with Uganda Safari, the community will receive an annual fee of $5,000, which is the ground rent for the luxury eco-lodge.
However, other firms which wanted to establish accommodation facilities at Nkuringo criticised UWA’s move. The Kisoro Tourism Development Association petitioned the tourism state minister, Serapio Rukundo, over the matter. Rukundo said he would write to UWA to the cancel the deal, saying “You cannot have all people complaining and think that the investment is going to be secure.”
Mugisha: The people complaining about the sale of gorilla permits are those that have tourist facilities in Kisoro, a competing area. They simply would like to make more money for themselves from these permits. They do not add up to ‘all the people’.
The larger issue is sustainably managing the Nkuringo gorilla groups. The main cause of conflict between us human beings and these great apes is the threat to their habitat. The only remaining home for these apes in the world are the thick forests of Bwindi and Mgahinga in Uganda, Volcanos and the Mikeno sector of Virunga national parks in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, respectively. Yet humans want these forests for food production.
For Nkuringo, the situation was worsened when the apes that formerly lived in the park got used to human presence in a bid to introduce tourism in 1997; they changed their home range to live on community land that belonged to the people of Nkuringo. This intensified the conflict resulting in diseases transmission between local people, livestock, and gorillas.
Intelligent apes cannot be controlled using other means such as translocation or shooting that can be applied to other animals like elephants and bush pigs. The current feud about the sale of gorilla permits is wrongly targeting an individual in the names of Jonathan Wright, using racial sentiments of ‘mzungu’ monopolising the gorilla permits. This is a conspiracy against the ‘voiceless’ often ‘invisible’ poor rural people.
The eco-lodge is designed to be owned and directly benefit the people whose gardens are being raided. For every guest that spends a night in the lodge, the community is entitled to $30 (sh15,000). The employment policy of the eco-lodge is to give local people the first priority. Those who will be working in the lodge will have no time to cultivate land and hence the conflict with gorillas will reduce. The $5,000 (sh8.5m) annual ground rent will assist the communities to come up with more enterprising projects than tilling the land for survival. It is a concept that could be applied in other situations to address human-wildlife conflicts. Give it a chance.
Spain Going Ape for Animal Rights
Mauritius Offering Private Sea and Beach Leases
Surrounded by Natural Resource Treasures, Africans Die in Poverty
Email this article Sign up for free Progress Report updates via email
What are your views? Share your opinions with The Progress Report:
Page One Page Two Archive Discussion Room Letters What's Geoism?