By Patrick Kagenda
UWA’s Shs 9bn `Friend a gorilla’ stalls over Shs 45m
In Sept 2009 the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) launched a campaign dubbed “Friend a Gorilla” to raise Shs 9 billion to fund park activities to preserve the endangered mammals.
Close to one year down the road during a visit to the UWA headquarters on Kira Road next to the Uganda Museum in Kampala, the Friend a Gorilla Project Coordinator Josephine Mayanja Nkangi says, “I can’t say that we are 100% but we are getting there.”
She says there are things that UWA did not take care of before embarking on the project. “We promised that people around the world can participate in gorilla tracking. However we haven’t been able to get the equipment.”
She said UWA had advertised for supply of the equipment and is waiting for the supervisory body of all public procurement, the PPDA, to approve the company it identified.
“Because of the gradient, we can’t install a regular camera, it has to be one that the rangers can use and be able to track the gorillas.
“We hope when we eventually get the equipment around October this year we will make the progress as planned,”she said.
The equipment is valued at Shs 45 million. It includes hand-held cameras and video recorders because UWA cannot afford satellite based equipment. The gorilla programme has so far earned US$600,000 (Approx. Shs 12 million) from sale of permits and other fundraising activity. Shs 2 billion of the planned Shs 4 billion has been invested in the project which hopes to raise Shs 9 billion.
UWA has developed a website with a photographic representation of each individual gorilla and is developing family cards for each gorilla group so that when a tourist is coming to track a friend, it is easy to identify the family members.
“When we started the campaign, no one of us realised how big it would be. Within the month of September alone when we had just launched we had 13,000 people who had befriended the Gorrilas,” Nkangi said.
Under the project, UWA is supposed to send each friend of a gorilla daily updates about it from the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park via the website.
To achieve this UWA has formed a team and needs more money because up to 14,835 people have befriended a gorilla. This figure is not descriptive of how many people are involved because one person may befriend a gorilla multiple times.
Uganda boasts 75 percent of the endangered mountain gorilla, which are 99 percent similar to man genetically. Gorilla tracking is a popular tourist activity but few people are able to participate because of the cost in money and time, the limited number of permits, and the physical challenges involved in the adventure.
The Friend a Gorilla programme has created awareness and enabled participants from all over the globe.