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Uganda Tourism Board is determined to conserve rare big cats       

KAMPALA Uganda (Xinhua) -- Uganda has called for the conservation of habitat for big cats and less attacks from humans ahead of the World Wildlife Day on Saturday.

In an interview with Xinhua on Friday, the chairperson of Uganda Tourism Board, Daudi Migereko, expressed fear that big cats such as leopards and lions would soon be extinct without urgent actions.

“Many of them are dying due to habitat loss. People who live around national parks kill the cats to protect themselves and their domestic animals. Due to population pressure and increasing land pressure arising out of limited economic opportunities, killing animals provides land for agricultural production and selling animal skin is a source of livelihood,” Migereko said.

Citing the example of lions, Migereko said there were about 1,000 of them in 1998, but the number has reduced to less than 450.

However, with determination and action, Migereko believes the trend can be reversed.

“That is why we choose the theme, ‘Creating a safe environment for the survival of Uganda’s big cats’. This rhymes with the global theme, ‘Big cats: Predators under threat’. This theme is important because it creates awareness of the need for people to protect these big cats,” he added.

The national celebrations will be held in Kasese district, about 360 km west of Kampala. The place was chosen because it is home for Queen Elizabeth National Park, where most of Uganda’s big cats are being conserved.

Migereko said the government was also trying to create alternative economic activities for people living around conservation areas so that pressure on land can be reduced.

“We also want to create an awareness of the need to protect the cats as well as demarcate the land for national parks clearly. For those surviving on cat’s skin as a source of income, we shall create some economic empowerment so that they don’t think they can only survive by killing animals and selling their skins,” he said.

When asked about the licences being given out by the Uganda Wildlife Authority to authorize hunting, Migereko said the hunters were only permitted to hunt animal species which were in excess and “not the endangered ones.”

“However, dealing with poachers is not an easy task. That is why UWA has been authorized to train its own force so that they can deal with poachers accordingly,” he said.

Uganda currently earns 1.5 billion U.S. dollars from the tourism sector, with most of the visitors coming for the country’s national parks.


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