Conservationists in Rubanda and Kisoro districts want Uganda Wildlife
Authority-UWA to take over Echuya Central Forest Reserve.
The forest that is shared by Rubanda and Kisoro districts is
under National Forestry Authority-NFA after it was gazetted in 1939.
Conservationists argue that once the forest is under UWA, it can be turned into a national park since it is a habitat for rare bird species
and will also help promote tourism in the area.
The Forest Reserve is home to roughly 150 bird species, eighteen
of which are endemic to the reserve, including the elusive Grauer's Swamp
Achilles Byaruhanga, Executive Director of Nature Uganda says that
currently the Forest Reserve is being degraded and encroached on by people
under the watch of NFA.
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Byaruhanga also says that some species of animals like wild pigs
and buffaloes that used to live in Echuya forest were all killed by
poachers due to negligence by the management.
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Engineer Ivan Mbabazi Batuma, the Chairperson for Kigezi Tourism
Cluster says that the takeover of Echuya forest by UWA is long overdue. Batuma explains that the takeover by UWA will help boost tourism where both flora and
fauna will be protected.
Batuma also notes that communities neighbouring the forest reserve
will benefit through revenue sharing.
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Tom Butime, Minister of Tourism Wildlife and Antiquities, says
that the district council should first pass a resolution supporting UWA to take
over the forest reserve. He adds that the resolution will then be presented to cabinet and later before parliament for final discussion and approval.