WORST YEAR FOR EAST AFRICAS ELEPHANTS IN DECADES
Last year turned out to be the worst for a very long time, with poaching of elephant reaching alarming proportions across Eastern Africa, Uganda alone allegedly losing 25 of them in the wider Murchisons Falls NP conservation area. Reports are now emerging that the notably the Auditor Generals office has looked into tip offs by conservation groups and concerned citizens that the data released by UIW were not entirely reflecting the true situation on the ground, which in contrast to Kenya, where the outspoken CEO of Eco-Tourism Kenya got arrested under an obscure medieval law after publicly questioning the KWS figures, a dispute later thankfully put to rest by both parties, did not end in a witch hunt. The report candidly speaks of the worst year ever obviously referring to the more recent past, comparing previous annual losses of in average 3 with the 25 allegedly poached last year. There was also thinly concealed reference to UWA allegedly having doctored their own data releases which however came at a time when the wildlife authority was in turmoil and under assault by kangaroo courts instituted by former Minister of Crocodiles aka Minister for Tourism Kahinda Otafire.
The upsurge in poaching in Uganda is in line with what is happening in Kenya, Tanzania and Southern Africa. The ivory demand by China has just gone through the roof, just like their demand for rhino horns. But here in Uganda the increase can have several other reasons too. For one UWA was a bit disorganized last year with all the enquiries and probes into them and the suspension and sacking of staff. That could have influenced their ability to collect and collate data properly. Secondly, there is an increase of elephant straying outside the park and entering areas which are now inhabited by people. They destroy their plantations and when UWA is not readily available to drive the animals back into the park, they can be killed also to protect lives of villagers, their homesteads and produce. And one of the big problems for UWA is that they are understaffed. When Otafire went into his attacks on UWA he disrupted them at all levels. Recruitment was not what it should be, attention to a lot of issues made way for staff to defend themselves or go into neutral mode. It was so often admitted by UWA that they need maybe three times as many rangers but funding allocation is not there and their ability to generate revenues has not yet fully evolved and matured. Those plans also suffered over the events of last year. They have no substantive Chief Executive and only a few weeks ago was a new board appointed after more than a year and a half of vacuum. As I said there are many factors so let us not just blame UWA but consider the background and circumstances and join hands rather than start another vendetta said a regular senior conservation source from Kampala, clearly in a mood to mitigate whatever shortcomings there have been and looking into the future, in order to restore game numbers in the 10 national parks across Uganda to the levels last seen before Amins soldiers went on rampage, almost wiping out the countrys wildlife.
Across the border in Kenya official statistics reveal that as many as 70 elephant have been killed by poachers, alongside at least 4 rhinos, few compared of course to the staggering number lost in South Africa alone, last year nearly 450 of the prized animals. KWS lost 5 rangers who were killed by poachers while at least 13 of those criminals were in turn killed in firefights, other wounded and many arrests were made. KWS has increased aerial surveillance, a capacity lacking with UWA in Uganda, using their two helicopters and also fixed wing aircraft and have already committed to purchasing more helicopters with special equipment to spot movements on the ground and track poachers until they can be cornered by teams on the ground, engaged and either arrested or else killed should they opt to open fire.
Tanzanias wildlife too has been under attack and the new minister for natural resources and tourism Khamis Kagesheki has already publicly committed himself to make anti poaching operations a core issue on his agenda, something his sacked predecessor failed to do. Here President Kikwete himself is on record to have pledged army support for TANAPA and other security organs engaged in fighting poaching and trafficking so that larger scale operations can be mounted and a wider dragnet be established around the parks to catch poachers, middle men and traders in illicit blood ivory.
All three of the original East African Community member states depend significantly on tourism incomes, investments and job creation, most of which are wildlife and nature based, and poaching is now recognized as a serious danger to tourism into the national parks, as on one side negative publicity deters visitors generally and lesser game number discourage tourists to come to the national parks across Eastern Africa once the word has spread into the market places overseas.
Solutions though are limited until such time that laws have been amended, making poaching an economic crime and allowing for crippling financial fines and very long term prison sentences, unlike today where poachers are often granted bail and are back at their bloody game within hours of being freed, while those eventually sentenced pay the fines with pocket money and serve their short sentences almost like having a holiday.
Endless squabbles though over other provisions, introduced to change the respective laws, may well have delayed new amended versions going to parliament. A way forward could be to perhaps delay wider changes and let those take a back seat for the moment allowing simply for the overdue issues of fines and sentences to be tackled, before then engaging in a broader consultation with stakeholders to make wildlife legislation reflect todays ambitions and needs of conservation and sustainable use. Watch this space.
Archive for May 11th, 2012
WORST YEAR FOR EAST AFRICAS ELEPHANTS IN DECADES
Budget considerations appear to restrict Ugandas delegation to the upcoming Rio Summit to around thirty only, inspite of the country being a biodiversity hotspot of global recognition and suffering already from climate change fall out, as the shrinking ice caps on the Rwenzori Mountains, aka Mountains of the Moon, amply demonstrates. Unlike neighbours Tanzania and Kenya, which will bring delegations of more than twice the size to the Rio+20 conference on environmental issues and climate change, Uganda will only have delegates from the ministry and NEMA, plus from the Uganda Tourist Board and the national organic agricultural body.
Though it is not clear, what the objectives of UTBs inclusion ultimately are, this not being a tourism conference or providing a wider marketing platform, there have been suggestions that UTB could learn a lot from how other countries approach sustainable tourism developments and then translate it into a revised action plan, jointly with NEMA, on the best way to protect the countrys threatened forests, wetlands, rivers and lakes but also the protected areas which are under constant threat of encroachment by pastoralists especially Semliki, Queen Elizabeth, Lake Mburo and Kidepo Valley national parks and by illegal settlers and loggers at Mt. Elgon, Rwenzori and Kibale national parks.
Let them take any chance they have to go out there and promote our Visit Uganda 2012 year, tell the world of our Golden Jubilee in October and of the countrys attractions as a bio diversity hotspot of global renown. We are waiting to see what budget finance is proposing for tourism for 2012/13. If we are shortchanged again government can prepare for tourism to react strongly this time, because you cannot give us a ministry and then starve it of money. They better come up with something better than ever before so that we can reach the 1 million tourist arrivals next year and then move to bigger targets. Of course, Rio may not be the best platform for tourism promotion but it is important for our tourism products, which are all nature based. So making progress there will help us to maybe find new mechanism to sustainably use our resources and can tap into funding to protect them as a global heritage said a regular source in a chat exchange overnight, when asked to comment on the news of UTB being part of the Ugandan delegation to Rio.
Closing advice from this correspondent to our boys and gals at UTB: Go get them
RWANDAIR PREPARES FOR DAILY FLIGHTS TO JOHANNESBURG
Information was received from Kigali that RwandAir, the countrys national airline, intends to add 4 more flights on the route to Johannesburg, going daily from next month onwards with one traffic day seeing both a day and night flight. The new schedule comes into effect on June 10th.
South African Airways, absent from the route for some time, had earlier in the year commenced flights to Kigali, combined with Bujumbura in neighbouring Burundi, operating three times a week on the days RwandAir was not offering connections. Increasing demand on the route between South Africa and Rwanda, but also better connectivity out of Kigali on RwandAir to Brazzaville, Libreville and Lagos in West Africa, to Dubai now 6 times a week and across the Eastern African region, has clearly encouraged RwandAir to add more flights between the important South African market and The Land of a Thousand Hills.
With now 4 B737 in the fleet, two new B737-800 which were delivered in 2011 and two leased B737-500, and one Bombardier Dash 8-100 used for domestic and short regional routes, the airline is in the final stages of network and frequency expansion planning, due to come into effect when additional aircraft on order will be delivered, expected to be in Q4 of this year.
RwandAir has two brand new Bombardier CRJ900 jets on order and on Monday will see the presentation by Bombardier of their Q400 turboprop aircraft, which is presently on an Africa demonstration tour. There is speculation that RwandAir may use the presence of very senior Bombardier staff in Kigali to advance their negotiations on the potential purchase of one or more new larger turboprop aircraft, needed to serve the fast growing demand for seats between Kamembe, fed largely by travelers from neighbouring Congo, and Kigali but also for off peak flights to such destinations as Entebbe, Bujumbura and perhaps new destinations on their drawing board, but for competitive reasons too early to tell. Watch this space for regular and breaking news updates from East Africas vibrant aviation sector.
ROAD TRANSPORT BETWEEN KENYA AND UGANDA SUFFERS BLOW AS AKAMBA CLOSES
Regular Akamba bus users between Nairobi and Kampala will have to find a new home after news emerged that the company, one of the market leaders and with a way above average safety standard, has suspended operations amid reports from Kenya, that the company may in fact have to close down altogether.
Many Kenyans and Ugandans are traveling between the two countries by bus, in the absence of train passenger services and in view of the ever steeper cost of flying which has spurred a boom of bus connections between the two capitals. Budget tourists and back packers too will need to make adjustments to their guide book information, and research for other companies with an equally good safety record, to travel with across the landscapes of Eastern Africa at very affordable rates.
Once THE long distance bus company in Kenya, which eventually grew into a major regional force in road transport for passengers and small cargo shipments, Akamba has in recent years lost several senior executives who then set up shop themselves, probably copying the erstwhile market leaders business concept and progressively eating into the market share, a development which has put the very survival of the nearly 60 year old Kenyan company in question. Originating in Machakos, the bus company started to expand in the 70s, 80s and 90s covering Kenya with a network of locations and offering fares wananchi could actually afford. Often leading the market in service developments, like in bus entertainment, known for few breakdowns and adherence to schedules, important in particular for their Kenyan domestic operations which covered almost the entire country, but increasingly also for their Eastern African destinations, it will be a sad day for all those who had in the past travelled with Akamba, should indeed the final bell ring for them. That is however the most likely outcome following squabbles between company directors it appears, and failure to service short and medium term debts according to a source in Nairobi and the rocky road ahead was swiftly exploited by rivals pushing hard to take over routes and passengers.
From Kampala it was learned that Easy Coach has quickly struck a deal with the landlords of Akambas premises on Dewinton Road, which it now occupies, a known location of course for travelers using Akamba in the past and now finding a new owners on that location. Time for guidebook authors to check their latest information and revise and update details on Kenyan and East African road transport services. Watch this space for future updates, as and when available.
EMIRATES POSTS 24TH CONSECUTIVE ANNUAL PROFIT, ADDS ROUTES AND AIRCRAFT
Dubais award winning national airline, Emirates, has according to a regular source at their Kampala office closed another year of uninterrupted profits, for the past 24 years the norm for this global airline.
This year we added 11 destinations to our network and are now fast becoming the biggest international airline. Emirates got 22 new planes, all wide bodies, and we exceeded 34 million passengers transported safely to their final Emirates destinations. We are proud, very proud, that we are adding another about 4.500 African recruits to our cabin and cockpit crews this year. Wherever Emirates flies in Africa, there are opportunities for young people starting a career or for professionals looking for greener pastures. Here in Uganda we fly daily nonstop between Entebbe and Dubai and this has made us one of the most popular airlines coming to Entebbe. The news now out are good news for our passengers because we can grow even more in the new financial year said the contact in a conversation earlier today.
From a media release, availed at the same time, it was evident that the Emirates Group made an overall profit of US Dollars 629 million, generated from a record breaking revenue of over 18.4 billion US Dollars inspite of the heavy impact of sharply risen aviation fuel prices. Passenger numbers rose by 8 percent on a year by year comparison and the average load factor achieved by the airline reportedly stands at 80 percent, the same as last year while notable the loadfactors for the airlines First and Business Class increased by 1.9 percent.
H.H. Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman of the Emirates Group, was quoted in the media release as having said: Achieving our 24th consecutive year of profit and maintaining an upward growth trajectory is an achievement that belies the industry norm. Throughout the 2011-12 financial year the Group has collectively invested close to AED 14 billion (US$ 3.8 billion) in new products. This investment has garnered new customers and increased our international presence. Successful business growth is not a matter of luck, it is the result of sustained and calculated investment. Every dirham that we earn is strategically ploughed back into our business and it is this foresight that has allowed the Group to maintain such strong and consistent profitability. In the last five years, Emirates capacity measured in Available Seat Kilometres, has increased by almost 100 percent facilitating new trade links and creating a new flow of passenger traffic. Being the first to capitalize on these new opportunities has allowed us to gain a distinct competitive advantage, one that we intend to maintain, clearly serving notice to competitors in the Gulf and elsewhere around the world that Emirates expansion drive was to continue relentlessly in the next and future financial years.
Towards that end H.H. Sheikh Ahmed added, according to the details at hand: We move into the new financial year with cautious optimism, navigating our way through the difficult economic climate with a clear vision for our continued success. We understand that succeeding in this industry requires determination and we are unapologetic about our drive to be the best. We are never complacent, always striving for perfection and always acutely aware that things can be done better. Customers expectations only get higher and it is up to us to ensure that we move upwards with them. With the help of our 63,000 strong multicultural workforce we have no doubt that the years ahead will again be more profitable than the last.
Emirates currently has a further 232 aircraft, all wide bodies, on order and the airlines hub is now set to overtake London Heathrow as the busiest international airport over the coming year, resulting in corresponding upgrades and expansion of terminals and passenger lounges at Dubai International Airport, where a new dedicated A380 terminal building is also nearing completion.
Impressive results by any standards, leading this correspondent to conclude that other airlines need to sit up and take notice, because clearly, notice has been served by Emirates loud and clear to become the world number one airline.
For more details on the annual results visit www.theemiratesgroup.com/annualresults