Sunday, 4 November 2012

Queen Elizabeth National Park wins birding race 2012

One of the BBD teams in Queen Elizabeth N.P
The annual Big Birding Day (BBD) is a fun, yet competitive day for bird-watchers, beginners, proffessionals and competitive twitchers, to positively identify as many different bird species as possible in a single 24-hour period. BBD aims at promoting birding as an important tourism product for Uganda. This event also aims at promoting domestic tourism, by involving Ugandans in such an exciting exercise. Big Birding Day is also all about the fun of bird-watching and there are no hard and fast rules. The Uganda BBD 2012 took place on 19th, 20th and 27th October 2012 under the theme was “Connecting Birds to people and Nature” and sub theme: “Birding @ 50 years: Saving the Crane, our National symbol”

All About Big Birding Day 2012

The BBD Launch: This took place on 19th October at Uganda Museum. The speakers included Achilles Byaruhanga (ED NatureUganda), Moses Mapesa (Former ED Uganda Wildlife Authority), Paul Mafabi (Commissioner for Wetlands of the Ministry for Natural Resources), James Lutalo (Commissioner for Wildlife Conservation) and Dr Andrew Seguya (ED Uganda Wildlife Authority). The guest speaker Mr. Moses Mapesa assisted by Dr. Chris Bakuneta of Makerere University gave a presentation about "the role of birds as biodiversity indicators, a conservation tool and eco-tourism product". Click to download the presentation (PDF).

In a speech read by Mr James Lutalo, Ms Maria Mutagamba the Hon Minister of Tourism & Wildlife Antiquetties, said that “In order to get more returns from the sector, we need to appreciate bird watching and recognize the comparative advantage it has over other sectors in the tourism industry.” Mr Lutalo launched the Big Birding Day 2012.(In photo on the left)

Vision’s Group photojournalist Mathias Mugisha was also recognized for his patriotic role as a nature photographer. He exhibited a number of bird photographs. Participants registered for the areas that they wanted to visit and carry out the birding exercise.

The Big Birding day: This was on 20th October. Birding took place in 47 birding sites across the country including 12 sites in Kampala area. The sites included national parks, wildlife reserves, forest reserves, Ramsar sites, Important Bird Areas (IBAs), Kampala city neighborhoods, private homes and compounds. Over 300 birders in 58 teams were involved in the 2012 birding exercise.

The Big Birding Festival: This took place on 20th October at Botanical gardens in Entebbe where the birding results of the 20th Oct exercise were announced. The festival kicked off with a nature walk in the morning followed by merry making and entertainment celebrating the achievement.

In her speech, the Guest of honor, the Ambassador of France to Uganda Mrs Aline Kuster-Ménager noted that “Uganda is indeed gifted by nature and it is everybody’s responsibility to preserve the natural environment of this country”. She added that “the government of France and other intuitions have been supporting conservation in Africa and Uganda in particular. I am aware that the French Zoo has provided a small grant to support to NatureUganda to conserve the Crested Crane, Uganda’s national symbol. Much information has been gathered that has led to the drafting of the national species action plan for the crane. This is an effort to stop species from extinction.”

The target for 2012 was 700 species (66%). The teams covered 35 general areas and recorded 657 species. This accounts for 63% of the total species of Uganda recorded and an increase of 82 species from the 2011 record. We recorded 386 in 2009, 622 in 2010, 569 in 2011 and 657 in 2012.

The BBD 2012 results (click here for details)

Queen Elizabeth National Park recorded the highest number of species with 246 (40% of the total species of the park) the highest for any site since the BBD started. It was followed by Murchison Falls National park with 205species (44% of total species for the park) and then Mabamba bay (Ramsar site) with 187 species (65% of total known for the site). This was followed by Lake Mburo National Park with 173 (55% of total for the park), Bwindi Impenetrable National Park with 170, Kibale Forest National Park with 142 and then Kidepo Valley National Park with 138 species. (Left:The ED UWA, Mr Stephen Masaba receiving an award from Mrs Aline Kuster-Ménager on behalf of QENP)

Finally the tallies for birds that can be recorded in one day in Uganda continue to increase as well as participants and sites covered. We look forward to more participation and believe that as people continue to enjoy bird watching, so will their attitudes change towards nature conservation. This will not only help to tame rampant environment degradation and species declines but will also ensure that Uganda continues to benefit from sustainable utilization of its resources.

The organizing Committee
The organization of the BBD events is done by a National committee made of NatureUganda partners that come together to plan and fundraise for the BBD events. Over the years, these have increased in number to the list below.

Uganda Tourism Board (UTB)
Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA and respective national parks and wildlife Reserves
National Forest Authority (NFA) and all forest reserves where eco-tourism is established
Uganda Tourism Association (UTA)
Sustainable Tourism in the Albertine Rift project (USAID-STAR)
Association of Uganda Tour Operators (AUTO)
Uganda Hotels and Hotel Owners Association (UHOA)
Uganda Community Tourism Association (UCOTA)
Honorary Wardens
Uganda Bird Guides Association (UBGC)
Makerere University Tourism Department and student Associations
GeoLodges Uganda
Pearls of Uganda Safaris
Diary of a muzungu
Venture Uganda
Other tour operators, etc

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