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Pandemic Forces Villagers Who Conserved to Poach

Like many hospitality activities around the world, wildlife tourism in Uganda has ground to a halt due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Kalema-Zikusoka says that since lockdown gripped Uganda, many people living around the parks have started entering and poaching animals to put food on the table. Gorilla-related tourism is very popular across Uganda. According to the Ugandan Wildlife Authority, in the 2018/19 fiscal year more than 40,000 permits were issued, a 40 percent increase on the year before. Gorilla sales revenue in that period was more than $25.5 million – income that has disappeared since the pandemic hit the country and tourists stopped coming. A survey carried out by the Ugandan Tourism Board on the impact on tourism shows devastating results. Stretching 321 square kilometres, the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is home to nearly half of the world’s mountain gorillas. Tourists from around the globe come here hoping to catch a glimpse of these apes, listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.