KAMPALA- Gorilla tracking permits in the country have run-out, a move the state minister for tourism, Godfrey Kiwanda, has attributed to an increase in tourists flocking the Pearl of Africa.
Speaking to journalists on Friday ahead of the November 9 tourism sector review meeting, Kiwanda said, every year 50, 000 gorilla tracking permits are printed, but due to the demand, they run out before the year ends.
"Our target for tourists visiting Uganda is four million by 2020. But we have already hit the two million mark this year," he said during a press conference at the Uganda Media Centre.
At $1.45b, tourism is the leading foreign exchange earner in the country. It is followed by foreign direct exchange from Ugandans abroad at $1.2b.
Tracking of mountain gorillas contributes to the largest portion of the foreign exchange earnings from tourism.
According to Kiwanda, 60% of the world gorilla population is in Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are the other countries in the world that have gorillas.
The minister has also urged tourism players, especially hotel owners, not to charge Ugandan citizens in dollars.
Stephen Masaba, the business development manager of Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), said domestic tourism has now hit 5%.
Masaba explained that tracking gorillas takes one hour, and foreign tourists pay $600, while foreign residents in Uganda pay $500.
Citizens pay $55 (about sh250, 000).
Kiwanda has also warned Ugandans who eat pangolins (Olugavve) and the Hispaniolan edible rat (Omusu) to stop, saying hunting these creatures has largely reduced their population.
"Olugavve and Omusu are now nearing extinction because some tribes, in this country, eat them. Others poach and smuggle them. I want to appeal to Ugandans that all wildlife belongs to Government. It is an offence to hunt wild animals unless you have a permit to do so," he said.