By Raymond Baguma
THE Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary has won this yearâ€™s International Virgin Holidays Awards for responsible tourism, for its effort to promote wildlife and environmental conservation through ecotourism.
The prestigious awards are in collaboration with the UK international travel directory www.responsibletravel.com, the UKâ€™s Telegraph newspaper, Geographical Magazine as well as the World Travel Market.
Launched in 2004, the awards recognise individuals, companies and organisations in the travel industry that are committed to biodiversity conservation.
Ngamba competed alongside 140 other tourism companies nominated from all over the world. The chimp sanctuary won in the category of â€œBest for Conservation and Wildlife Habitat.â€
The European Union (EU) head of delegation in Uganda, Vincent de Visscher, presented the award to Lily Ajarova, the managing director of Chimpanzee Sanctuary & Wildlife Conservation Trust, the NGO that manages Ngamba.
The ceremony, held at the Ngamba Island in Mukono on Wednesday, was attended by representatives from Japan as well as the EU member states of France and Germany.
De Visscher said the chimp sanctuary could be emulated in Uganda in environmental protection and ecotourism which has created jobs for Ugandans. â€œThe country is blessed by nature and tourists are interested in seeing its beauty,â€ he said.
Last year, the sanctuary also got the Presidentâ€™s Export Award 2008 certificate of recognition.
Established in 1998, the sanctuary hosts 44 orphaned chimpanzees which were found either injured in the wild or were recovered from animal traffickers.
The sanctuary is also a member of the Pan African Sanctuaries Alliance (PASA), an association of primate sanctuaries in African countries. An estimated 200,000 chimps remain in 21 African countries, of which about 5,000 are found in Ugandaâ€™s forests as well as on private land mainly in western Uganda.
De Visscher also launched a one-year tree planting campaign to restore the natural forest habitat for chimps.