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Tourism Ministry revises law as it toughens on illegal wildlife traders using Uganda as transit

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Two international traffickers arrested with 250 kg of raw ivory in Uganda
Two international traffickers arrested with 250 kg of raw ivory in Uganda

Over the past 10 years, the tourist arrivals into Uganda have steadily increased from 850,000 in 2008 to over 1.4 million arrivals in 2017.

Elephants: some of the endangered species in Uganda
Elephants: some of the endangered species in Uganda

Currently, tourism is Uganda’s leading foreign exchange earner with $1.45 billion in 2017, followed by remittances from Ugandans abroad at about $1.2 billion.

In addition to generating foreign exchange earnings and creating jobs, tourism promotes trade and investment and significantly contributes to the development of other sectors of the economy, such as construction, manufacturing, retail and financial services.

Unfortunately, the tourism industry is threatened by poaching and illegal wildlife trade.

But the good news is, the ministry of tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities has made strides towards strengthening the legal framework for wildlife conservation in Uganda through the revision of the Uganda Wildlife Act 2000.

Presenting a review for the sector’s performance in 2018, the ministry revealed that the Uganda Wildlife Bill 2017 is currently awaiting enactment by Parliament.

The Bill proposes higher penalties for wildlife crimes like poaching and illegal wildlife trade, addresses human wildlife conflict issues, enhances community participation in conservation and harmonizes conservation with other sectors of the economy.

Once enacted, the bill will among others ensure that Uganda is no longer used as a source or transit for illegal trade in wildlife species and specimens.

Furthermore, to strengthen the promotion and sustainable utilization of cultural heritage resources, Principles of the Museums and Monuments Bill were approved by Cabinet and submitted to First Parliamentary Counsel for drafting.

Once enacted, the new Bill will repeal the Historical Monuments Act 1967. It is argued that the 1967 act is outdated for it doesn’t cater for sites and monuments that developed after it was enacted.

Meanwhile, the review also revealed that most of the tourists (56%) fell within the 20 – 39 age-category with an opportunity of future repeat visits.

“The leisure component of our visitors has increased from 18% in 2016 to 20% in 2017. It is important to receive more leisure tourists because they spend more. An average international leisure tourist to Uganda spends US$1,209 (excluding air transport fares) compared to other categories.”

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