By Taddeo Bwambale
THE Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) has lowered gorilla permits in a promotion aimed at increasing the number of local and foreign tourists visiting national parks to see the mountain gorilla.
All East Africans will now pay a standard fee of sh100,000 for a gorilla permit, instead of sh250,000 for Ugandans and $475 for East Africans.
Foreign tourists residing in the country will pay $250 instead of $500, while foreign non-residents will pay$350.
The new rates were announced at a press conference in Kampala yesterday by the acting UWA executive director, Dr. Andrew Seguya.
He said through the campaign, the wildlife body was targeting to increase the sale of the permits from an average of 70% to 100% during low tourism seasons. About 64 gorilla permits are available for sale daily.
Seguya said two more gorilla families would be habituated at the park, adding that this would raise the number of gorilla permits to 80.
Gorilla tracking is the highest revenue generating tourism activity in Uganda and takes place in Bwindi and Mgahinga national parks.
The two parks are home to more than half of the worldâ€™s mountain gorilla population, currently estimated at 840, and shared with Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Bwindi has 28 gorilla families, of which six have been habituated for tourism and one for research.
Seguya also said UWA would release new tariffs for tourists visiting national parks, which will last between 2011 to 2013.
He denied that the campaign was in response to losses incurred by the sector estimated at $100m following the walk-to-work protests.
He disclosed that UWA would set aside funds in its next budget to promote domestic tourism.
This will include creating new access routes, providing better transport facilities and setting up affordable rental units in the parks.
â€œWe want the parks to be enjoyed by Ugandans because they are a precious resource that belongs to all of us,â€ Seguya said. Only 850,000 Ugandans visit the parks annually.