Only visitors aged six years and above will be allowed to the UWEC because they must wear masks, according to officials.
The Uganda Wildlife Conservation Education Centre (UWEC) commonly known as Entebbe Zoo has re-opened its gates to tourists after five months of lockdown.
The re-opening, announced on Saturday, came a day after the tourism minister Tom Butime and Lilly Ajarova, the Chief Executive Officer for Uganda Tourism Board, toured the centre to confirm its preparedness to resume operations.
Dr. James Musinguzi, the UWEC Executive Director, had earlier said not more than 300 people would be allowed inside the animal centre on a given day. Musinguzi said limiting the number of visitors is among the many Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) developed by UWEC directors and board members to control the spread of Covid-19 to humans and animals.
"All these SOPs including screening, sanitising, social distancing among others are contained in a document we had issued to the health ministry and the national task-force for approval before the Zoo was opened," said Musinguzi.
Butime lauded the management of UWEC for working hard to survive the ripple effects of COVID-19. "I have appointed a task-force in the ministry to work out modalities with Uganda Tourism Association, Uganda Hoteliers Association and other stakeholders on how Ugandans can salvage the tourism industry by embracing domestic tourism," said Butime during his earlier tour of the centre. "Now that we have learnt from this bitter experience of COVID-19, we shall learn to domesticate our tourism industry," he added.
Having remained closed for severalmonths, the centre made tremendous losses since it could no longer get money from gate collections. UWEC managers had to appeal for help from the government and well-wishers so as to feed animals with food worth sh3m everyday. In response, the government remitted sh756m to UWEC while private individuals and companies donated cash and food items totaling to over sh65m.
Only visitors aged six years and above will be allowed to the centre because they must wear masks. UWEC has maintained entrance fees at sh5,000 for children under 14 years and sh10,000 for adults. Before the outbreak of Covid-19, the government had allocated over sh800m for infrastructure development at the animal centre.
Several structures have been put inplace, including new animal holdings, a floating restaurant, a giraffe holding area, elephant exhibition centre, ramp rand for disabled persons, Zakayo monument among others.
Other developments are; security cameras, greening the environment and revamping structures among others.
"We are delivering on our workplan target and we are surely back with a bang," Musinguzi said.
According to Francis Okello, who is overseeing the installation of cameras at UWEC, there will be easy dissemination of footage from the new-installed cameras through the control room to any website or medium of communication.
"Authorised officials will also be able to remotely access these cameras, hence will be able to monitor whatever shall be taking place at the facility," Okello explained.
Govt to take charge of Zoo
Unlike in the past where money collected at the gate would be spent at the centre, now all monies collected at UWEC shall be remitted to the consolidated fund. In return, government will be advancing the centre with all the money for feeding animals among other costs. "Our budget this financial year 2020/2021 is sh13.11b out of which, sh6.46b is for recurrent expenditure whereas sh6.65b is for capital development," stated Musinguzi.