By Sidney Mugerwa
Giraffes are strange animals, all neck and long legs splaying about as they run awkwardly from one acacia tree to another. One wonders what the Maker was thinking when he crafted them. Watching them, one expects them to tumble into a jerky heap on the ground. It gets comical when the giraffe tries to quench its thirst at the watering hole: a tower of Babel standing 16 to 20 feet tall having to stoop to the water level. Such a spectacle!
When ancient Greeks and Romans first set eyes on a giraffe, they assumed it was the hybrid of a leopard and a camel. That could have explained the white and brown spots that resembled those of a leopard and the close likeness to desert camels. Thus they named the strange beast Giraffa camelopardalis. These esteemed gentlemen apparently did not understand the dynamics of predator versus prey.
To be frank, giraffes look like a camel with its neck stretched out and thickened with too much good food. A ridge of neck hair is also attached for effect and coloured brown, finished with a coat of spotted skin. They have a pouting mouth and no chin at all; and beautiful, lazy heavily-lashed eyes that blink seductively. A couple of short blunt horns, called ossicones, complete the look with tufts of hair growing at the tips (for the females).
The graceful giraffe actually pulls it off, looking exotic and beautiful as they munch on leaves high up in the trees without a care in the world.
Of the nine species of giraffe spread across Africa totalling a measly 80,000, the Rothschild’s giraffe is native to Uganda and the only species that is still surviving in their natural habitat. The Uganda Wildlife Authority tallies them at 1,050 in number, 750 of which are found in Murchison Falls National Park and less than 25 in Kidepo Valley National Park. The rest of the Rothschild’s population can be found in Kenya. These beauties make the shortlist in the endangered category.
Males are generally taller and heavier than the females and a shade darker. What makes the Rothschild’s giraffe stand out from its peers such as the Masai giraffe is that its legs from the knee down do not have spots; one would say that they look dashing in their knee length white socks.
A pilot research project to be based in Murchison Falls National Park has been launched that aims to understand population size, dynamics, ecology and threats giraffes face. Spearheaded by the Giraffe Conservation Foundation, Conservation Scientist Dr. Julian Fennessy alongside researchers, Stephanie Fennessy and Andy Tutchings will team up with a researcher at Uganda Wildlife Education Centre (UWEC), Henry Opio for the project: The team will be hosted by Marasa Africa at their Paraa Safari Lodge located in Murchison Falls National Park.
Tourism month - Focus on Toro region
By SOLOMON OLENY
The annual world tourism month is here: September is packed with lots of tourism activities. Uganda Wildlife Authority has waived off all fees on access to National Parks and tourism sites for those who will confirm their attendance with the Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) in advance. The grand event is going to be held in Fort Portal in Toro region, truly one of the gems of the Pearl of Africa. Here tourists can find it all, from national parks to mountain climbing, cultural tourism, eco-tourism, chimp tracking, among others.
World tourism month provides an opportunity to explore what is on offer under different themes ahead of World Tourism Day on September 27. It is also aimed at promoting domestic tourism and encouraging nationals to visit the numerous attractions within their borders.
Some celebrities will make an appearance, including musicians who will be entertaining and might take part in the events. There will also be lots of Toro’s cultural music, dance and drama.
This year, Mt. Rwenzori is the star of the events. But UTB has lined up several other activities to commemorate the tourism month. There is a five-day exhibition showcasing the various attractions of Uganda, the ways of life of the people of Uganda, culture, history and tourism services at Boma grounds from September 24 to 27, 2013. Various tourism firms will have booths at the grounds to help visitors book activities they would like to participate in.
Tourists can take part in the primate walks, chimp tracking, forest hikes and bird watching at Kibaale National Park on September 26. On a private arrangement with tours and travels companies, this could costs around $ 275 (sh707,000) for Non East Africans and $165 (sh424,000) for East Africans inclusive of Chimp tracking permit, nature/forest walk, transport, guides and picnic lunch.
One can go on nature walks and community tours.
The Mt. Rwenzori royal climbing challenge will be led by his Majesty King Oyo. Tour operators can arrange this for about $1,478 (sh3.8m) for East Africans and around $1,776 (sh4.6m) for non-East Africans inclusive of park fees, accommodation, meals, hiking equipment, porters and climbing equipment. You need to bring good hiking boots, warm clothing and a sleeping bag.
However, in case none of the above options interests you, you can cast your net onto other activities such King Oyo’s vibrant Empango (coronation anniversary) on September 7 and tour the royal palace and get acquainted with its rich history. You can also tour the famous Mabere ga Nyinamwiru caves with rocks shaped like breasts. Other activities include the love trail which is about taking a walk along the crater lakes. It costs approximately sh150,000 per person and includes transport, a guide and picnic lunch. Prices can come down when clients have their own transport.
Alternatively, you can experience the Batwa in Bwindi forest with a rich repertoire of their ancient traditions. Alternatively, you can go for the Batwa trail at Mountain Mgahinga.
This trip could cost about $400 (sh1m). At the end of all this adventure, there is no better way to cool off the day’s steam than by feeling the nightlife of Fort Portal town.
WHY THE TIMING IS GREAT
The beauty of the tourism month is that this is a time when most students are on holiday. This perfect timing is an opportunity for them to see, experience and learn as they tour their country at student-friendly rates.