By Frank Mugabi
THE Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) has appointed a private company to run Ajai Wildlife Reserve in Arua district.
Speaking during the signing of the contract at Arua district headquarters recently, UWA executive director Moses Mapesa said the authority was only delegating the management function to a private partner and not selling the reserve.
â€œWe expect to see an increase in wildlife, new infrastructure and the introduction of photographic safaris,â€ Mapesa said.
He said despite having a 100-acre island, Ajai wasnâ€™t playing a major role in the tourism sector.
He cited poor infrastructure and the lack of tour services as major setbacks to achieving full potential.
The managing director of Uganda Wildlife Safaris Ltd, Christian Weth, said they would immediately improve the infrastructure and relocate a number of species into the 16,600 hectare reserve.
â€œWe shall start early next year by bringing in 20 waterbucks, 30 heartbeats and 40 buffalos by the end of 2009,â€ he said.
Weth said they also plan to reintroduce rhinos, which were once predominant in the area, after fencing off the two major roads that run through the reserve and trails that are to be opened up.
He also said a number of zebras would be relocated to the park from Lake Mburo National Park.
â€œZebras were here before. We want to return them and observe how they fare. Lake Mburo does not seem to favour them,â€ he said.
Arua district vice-chairman Kamilo Sabo signed on behalf of the local government.
Weth said they were planning to invest about $250,000 (sh430m) in the first phase, which will include the construction of five bungalows with the capacity to provide high-end accommodation to 25 people.
The staff, he said, would be trained and electricity and running water installed in their houses.
Weth said the park would employ 30 to 50 people. Most of them, he said, would be drawn from the communities.
Some of the anticipated tourist activities include boat racing, sport fishing and sporting hunting.
Sabo appealed to UWA and the Uganda Wildlife Safaris to quickly re-settle the residents who were displaced by the demarcation of the reserve, noting that it would facilitate the quick and smooth implementation of the development plan.
He said although alternative land had not yet been identified for them, at least 27 families are to be displaced from Madali and Degia.
Julius Obwona, the assistant warden in charge of Ajai, however, said part of the reserve had been de-gazetted to resettle the 26 households from Madali, who were living in the middle of the reserve.
â€œWe are preparing to move them soon but the Degia community still remains a problem,â€ he said, adding that they were liaising with the local government to secure land.