UWA, Partners launch fundraising drive in memory of Silverback Ruhondeza

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KANUNGU– Uganda Wildlife Authority- UWA Bwindi in partnership with  “GORILLAS  our friends FOREVER”, Conservation Through Public Health (CTPH), Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (MPI-Evan), and local communities of Bwindi launched a fundraising compaign in memory of 10 years anniversary of Silverback gorilla RUHONDEZA who was laid to rest on 27/June/2012. 

RUHONDEZA is the pioneer Silverback gorilla that allowed to be habituated for tourism in Uganda, thus creating a legacy that has earned Uganda millions of dollars in terms of tourism revenue and spurred socio-economic transformation of the citizenry.

The function was held at UWA Bwindi Visitor Information Centre and was graced by Dieter Beller from Germany – who was the chief coordinator of the campaign.

Dieter appreciated the commendable work done by Uganda Wildlife Authority in protecting the gorillas, Bwindi forest, and briefed the audience about the campaign that aimed at mobilizing funds to enhance local community livelihoods and induce associated further support for gorilla conservation. 

Dieter reiterated that the initial stages of the conpaign had already raised funds that supported construction of two water tanks of 50,000 litres each in Ruhija and Kyogo areas where school girls were fetching water from long distances and eventually missing school leading to high school dropouts and early pregnancies. 

Dieter also informed the audience that another aspect of the campaign is “Planting a million (1,000,000) trees” through distributing fast growing softwood tree seedlings to the local communities for both fruits and firewood thus protecting the National Park against illegal plant harvesting.

Joseph Arineitwe, Warden Ecological Monitoring and Research, who represented the Chief Warden, said that mountain gorillas were initially perceived  to be very hostile until Silverback RUHONDEZA, the leader of the first gorilla family to be habituated in Uganda (Mubare family) demystified the  perceptions by calmly accepting that his family be habituated for tourism in a short period of time lasting for about two years. 

RUHONDEZA is believed to have lived for approximately 50 years and seen by more than 50,000 people before he went to rest.

Moses Basheija, the Mayor of Buhoma Town Council, appreciated the great initiative (campaign) aimed at uplifting the livelihoods of communities neighboring the gorilla forest. He reiterated a fact while the local communities in Buhoma zone had some of the best primary schools in the district, the area lacks even a single government aided secondary school within 20Km radius area which leads to many youths dropping out of Schools before secondary level.

Bashaija added that this a danger to nature arising from the pressure for natural resource by the dropouts thus appealing for possible support to Mukono secondary school which is coming up in the town council as means of enabling continuous youths education as well as saving the gorillas and Bwindi. 

The school, according to the mayor, lacks incentives such as food/meals, teachers’ salaries, and scholastic materials all which are holding it behind in elevating the standard of education.

Dr. Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka, the CEO and Founder of CTPH, in her speech read by Anaclet (CTPH’s Laboratory Technician) reminded the community about the importance of protecting wild animals adding that she was very glad that Ruhondeza died of a natural death not human disturbance. 

Zikusoka was proud to be part of the campaign to help the community and keep protecting the legacy RUHONDEZA before she extended her heartfelt appreciation to all participants in the campaign.