June 11, 2013

Tour Companies Fight over Gorilla Tracking Permits

Up country Tours Safaris Companies are demanding for the relaxation of procedures and costs of acquiring Gorilla and Chimpanzee tour permits by Uganda Wildlife Authority – UWA. Nanyondo claims that big tour companies buy off the permits in large numbers, denying the smaller companies a chance to acquire some.
Tour companies operating up country have asked government to relax the procedures and costs of acquiring Gorilla and Chimpanzee tracking permits. Currently, Uganda Wildlife Authority-UWA issues a fixed number of permits to the tour companies at a centralized office in Kampala. At the peak of the season, a Gorilla tracking permit costs $500 while a chimpanzee permit costs $50 a day. However, the tour companies say the cost is prohibitive, which has denied them business.

The managers of Tours and Travel Agencies attribute the high cost of the permits to the fact that they are issued at one access permit. Kevin Nyapendi, a Travel Consultant at African Expeditions Safaris in Jinja wants UWA to set up other access points and halve the cost of the permits to attract more tourists to the Gorilla parks and Chimpanzee sanctuaries.

Lillian Nsubuga, UWA spokesperson says at least 96 Mountain Gorilla tracking permits are issued daily. Eight permits are for a group of gorillas that like to visit other countries such as Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, while 88 are left for Gorilla groups that live at Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. She explains that the issuing of the permits is centralized to control the traffic of tourists to serve them better. Veronica Nanyondo, a Reservations officer at the Tourist center in Jinja says the permits are too few to meet the demands of tourists and local tour company.

Nanyondo claims that big tour companies buy off the permits in large numbers, denying the smaller companies a chance to acquire some. Uganda has 400 Gorilla in Bwindi and Ngahinga area of Uganda, which earns the country approximately$900 million per year.

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