My Day at the Entebbe Zoo – Uganda Wildlife Educational Center

Posted April 24, 2011 by Ugandan Diaspora News Team in Featured ~ 6,713 views


By Ronnie Mayanja | Uganda Dispatch | Opened as a sanctuary for orphaned, confiscated, injured and sick animals way back in 1952 by the colonial government the Entebbe Zoo or the Uganda Wildlife Educational Center[UWEC] as its commonly referred to today looks more like a shadow of its former self.

I recently embarked on a trip to visit this facility that was once a childhood favorite but boy haven’t times changed. From the look of things it felt that our government needed to do more to attract foreign funding from the donor agencies or foundations dedicated to the conservation of the wildlife.

The goal during my visit was to re-acquaint myself with the place I used to love growing up and where my parents always took us to see wild animals that we fed and enjoyed seeing devour their meals. How could I forget the crocodiles and the healthy lions.

Front of the Ugandan Zoo

The Zoo was well maintained up to the end of Amin’s era and we who grew up in the 1980s share those scant memories of a somewhat well maintained facility with animals that were kept in good health. As a child you always looked forward to that educational school trip that brought us closer to National Park Experience.

With Uganda’s economy on the rebound after years of political and economic instability, our government could do a better job marketing this country that Winston Churchill once described as the Pearl of Africa. When you take a look at the resources the government committed to promoting the Gifted My Nature campaign perhaps the tax payers money could have been better utilised repairing and improving some of these wildlife facilities.

Entebbe as the gateway for international travel to Uganda allows visitors to experience the Zoo – UWEC center first hand but if there are no animals, zoo attendants, tour guides and some poorly fed animals to
welcome you upon arrival, this hurts our tourism sector as a whole.

And yes the UWEC management has tried as far as presentation online is concerned. The UWEC website looks good but this facility could easily become a big cash cow for the Tourism ministry and UWEC center if they partnered with the Education Ministry to set up curriculums that allowed students to interact with many of these animal and bird species on site.

With over 16 National Parks and Game Reserves, Uganda is in a better position to attract more tourists and yet the Kenyan Tourism Authority records more than a million tourists every year. Of course what we don’t have in the sandy beaches of the Indian Ocean we can make up with our hospitality and natural green vegetation ideal for wild game habitation. However as it looks to today, Uganda faces fierce competition from Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda.

Parrots at the Ugandan Zoo

On my recent trip to Kampala I met and interacted with Mr. Kaddu Ssebunya, The Chief Of Party at the USAID-STAR Project.[Sustainable Tourism In the Albertine Rift]. He educated me on something I did not know especially the fact that Uganda enjoys the highest concentration of bird species in the world, something that our ZOO/UWEC center together with Uganda Tourism Board and Uganda Wildlife Authority can harness to attract Bird tourism since this industry attracts billions of dollar across the globe annually. I had also witnessed similar potential on Ssese Islands, an untapped tourism resource with a variety of primates and birds species that live on these 84 islands in the heart of Lake Victoria.

In order to show what perhaps the Entebbe Zoo/UWEC center was lacking I visited the Franklin Zoo in the downtown Boston, USA and from start to finish there was something to see that kept your excitement levels high.

One of the attractions at the Franklin Zoo in Boston

Although Africa is several hundred miles away they had the airlifted African animals like the African Lion, Zebras, Wat hogs, and the lowland Mountain gorillas etc. The environment too was recreated to give you that African jungle atmosphere something that we as a nation do not have to strive to recreate. They even offered a petting Zoo for kids to feed the animals something I hardly saw at our Entebbe Zoo. [See photo gallery to Franklin Zoo animals]

The animals too were kept in good health and well dressed uniformed staffers were on hand to answer visitors questions. At the Franklin Zoo they will make you spend on Zoo memorabilia and even have a photo studio ready for you to keep a record of your adventure something that our Zoo did not offer.

Lion at the Franklin Zoo in Boston

Some will argue that this is the first world hence the need to apply a different standard but either way these game wardens can be sponsored to visit these overseas Zoo facilities to see how their counterparts care for the tamed wild animals, who knows perhaps Uganda might be able to get back in the Tourism game.

As I conclude I am convinced that the only way we can improve on our Wildlife facilities is by visiting our competitors and seeing what it is they are doing right. Kenya by the sheer volume of tourists they get annually is a good start and a stone’s throw away. On the other hand removing the signs representing animals that don’t exist at the zoo and replacing those animals that look old and under fed like the lions could also be a welcomed gesture. A massive advertising campaign that involves the use of social media can also help revamp this facility and help make this a truly world class education conservation center respected not only in Africa but the world over.

Here are Some photos from the Ugandan Zoo:

About the Author

Ugandan Diaspora News Team

Ugandan Diaspora News Online is an independent, non political news portal primarily aimed at serving Ugandans who work and reside outside Uganda. Our aim is to be a one stop shop for everything Ugandan and the celebration of our Ugandan heritage.


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