Uganda is the home of more than 50 per cent of all birds in Africa. Also, more than 10 per cent of the world’s birds reside in Uganda. Arguably, Sir Winston Churchill was right to refer to Uganda as “The Pearl of Africa” in his 1908 book titled My African Journey. Uganda’s biodiversity partly explains Churchill’s observation.
During the expo, a total of 768 bird species were recorded as observered from 28 national parks and non-protected areas across the country. In 2013, the African Bird Club voted Uganda as the destination for bird watching; and in 2012, the country was labelled the best destination on the Lonely Planet Website.
Executive director for the Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) Dr Stephen Asiimwe, told TIA that in the last 20 years, Uganda has moved from three national parks to 20, and 12 game reserves.
“Birding was just an activity among others but we have been building capacity of bird guides, bird sanctuaries and bird sites. As a result of capacity building, we also decided to do a census of the bird species that we have in Uganda,” Asiimwe said. “We have registered 1067 bird species, which is 50 per cent of African bird species and 10 per cent of global bird species. It is actually believed that we have 80 per cent of tropical bird species.”
He added that the intention of the expo is for the entire world to appreciate the fact that Uganda is a global bird haven.
Asiimwe is also optimistic that Uganda could earn more than the annual $12 million they are receiving as revenue from birding.
Among the birders was Brian Zwiebel, a renowned nature photographer from the USA. He told TIA that “the future of birding in Uganda is bright.”
“[In the USA] we have a lot of Hummingbird species and you don’t have any Hummingbirds in the Eastern hemisphere. So, you have Sunbirds that emulate the behaviors of our Hummingbirds. You see a different bird unrelated to the Humming bird but having many of the same behaviours. It is very interesting,” Zwiebel said.
Besides birding, Zwiebel promised he would tell his countrymen that Ugandans are “some of the friendliest people in the world I’ve met and the biodiversity is fantastic.”
Asiimwe said UTB will be holding a birding expo every year to further promote Uganda’s tourism industry.