Uganda will between December 6 and 8 host the third Pearl of Africa Birding Expo at the lakeside resort town of Entebbe.
The country has 10 per cent of the global bird population and some 1,080 bird species, both native and migratory, but still lags behind Kenya, Tunisia and South Africa in the number of birding tourists and local bird watchers.
The country also receives over 10 million migratory birds annually. Uganda is targeting birding enthusiasts to boost tourist arrivals.
Entebbe is a Ramsar site home to several migratory birds from a wintry Europe.
The theme this year will be “Celebrating birds and people to conserve the Fox’s Weaver.”
The Fox Weaver is endemic to Uganda but has become rare as numbers have reduced drastically.
This year, with the help of the Kenya Birders Association, Uganda set up its first ladies bird watchers club, and now the country is seeking to promote birding as a tourism product to compete against the continent’s big boys.
Promoters of birding say the product could grow into one of the biggest tourist earners. Last year the sector earned $1.6 billion.
On average, a birder spends roughly 17 days in the country according to Herbert Byaruhanga the executive director of Africa Birding Safaris, and spends roughly $7,000 on a trip.
Uganda Tourism Board executive director Lilly Ajarova believes that birding will only pick up if Ugandans get involved.
“We would like to push this more because we need to diversify the different products of tourism. We have the wildlife and a great climate and hope this will increase our earnings,” Ms Ajarova said.
“Most of our species are disappearing and birds we thought were common are now harder to find. One of them is the Grey Crowned Crane, which is actually our country’s emblem. Ten years ago, they were estimated to be around 100,000, but now number 20,000,” Mr Byaruhanga said.
The executive director of Nature Uganda, Achilles Byaruhanga, said the country has about 200 trained birding guides. He suggested that besides training more guides, the country also needs to secure the natural habitats ideal for bird watching.