Wildlife centre gets international standards accreditation

Lion

Letaba

After more than two years of waiting, the Uganda Wildlife Education Center has passed the audit for the International Zoo operating standards. The Centre applied to the World Association of Zoos and African Association of Zoos for accreditation in 2013 and it has been under audit since.

The two bodies dispatched a team of auditors to audit the operating standards of UWEC to see if they comply with International Zoo operating standards. Some of the things put into consideration include the availability of mechanisms for enforcing animal and human safety, human resource, health of the animals and customer care amongst others.

For over a year, Uganda Wildlife Education Centre has been working to improve its standards after the initial inspection last year. A team of auditors from World Association of Zoos- WAZA returned last month to carry out a final audit in line with recommendations from their previous inspection exercise and were satisfied with the improvements. James Musinguzi, the Executive Director Uganda Wildlife Education Centre says the nod is a big boost to the centre.

“After meeting the standards with high quality facilities and innovations, it will now take six months for the centre to get the accreditation certificate. UWEC now ranks among the best zoos globally and can engage in all research activities whose results will be recognized globally,” he added.

The accreditation will open opportunities for the center to apply for grants, work and collaborate with other zoos in research and breeding of wildlife species. Once accredited, UWEC will join six other Zoos that have international accreditation.

They are Cango Wildlife Ranch, National Zoological Garden of South Africa, South African Association of Marine Biological Research and Johannes Zoo, Lorry Park Zoo and Owl Sanctuary and Butterfly World and Tropical Garden, all in South Africa.

Meanwhile, the male lion that was donated by Lion Park, South Africa to Uganda Wildlife Education Center to replace the late Kibonge has finally arrived in the country.

Kibonge died late last year of old age leaving UWEC without a male lion. It was hoped that the lion that was donated in May last year would arrive before Kibonge died but the process took longer than expected.

The problem was compounded when the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, CITES, tightened the conditions for export of endangered species.

However, both the Ugandan and South African authorities completed the process by February and put in motion the relocation process. Named Letaba, meaning Happiness in Zulu Language, the six year old lion arrived over the weekend aboard South Africa Airways and was handed over to the UWEC management shortly after. UWEC Executive Director says the arrival of Letaba marks the new era in lion conservation efforts.

He says currently, Uganda has less than four hundred lions and the arrival of the male lion will help boost the numbers at the zoo, which can then be reintroduced in the wild. “The arrival of the lion is a big boost to our education and conservation efforts since we will be able to show the lion both at the centre and during upcountry visits,” he added.

James Lutalo, the Commissioner for Wildlife Conservation and Management at the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities says the ministry will do everything to ensure that the centre succeeds in its mandate of conducting conservation education.