Parks Beyond Borders: Uganda Parks Get Flurry of Attention for New Website, and Rains Close Park Facilities in Western Canada

Mount Elgon National Park Uganda

Uganda's Mount Elgon National Park is northeast of Lake Victoria and located in Uganda and Kenya. The Ugandan part of the park was formed in 1992. Mount Elgon is an extinct volcano.

Former Director Helps Get Publicity for Uganda Parks

Moses Mapesa, the former director of Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), was praised recently in New Vision, “Uganda’s Leading Daily.” Mapesa was recently “appointed the regional vice-chair for the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Commission on Protected Areas for Eastern and Southern Africa,” after a long career of working to protect parks and wildlife in Uganda.

The paper said, “Mapesa’s illustrious career at UWA ended prematurely in mid-July 2010, when Kahinda Otafiire, then trade and tourism minister, relieved him of his duties citing irregularities in the management at UWA.”

Nevertheless, as the protection of colonial national park systems crumbled under the weight of reinvigorated conflicts among a growing population and claims to resource rights in park areas, Mapesa braved the hostility “as he rose through the ranks at the Uganda Wildlife Authority.”

He “worked as the director for field operations, which used to act like a fire brigade to resolve conflicts around the protected areas. He later became the executive director of UWA within the last decade. ‘Mapesa’s leadership has developed the authority into one of the most professional protection agencies in the world,’” according to an IUCN citation Mapesa received in 2008.

The article by Gerald Tenywa credited Mapesa with treading a minefield of difficulties as claims on game and timber on forest preserves led to their becoming national parks, only to have politicians promise to “free protected areas for locals in exchange for votes...”

Mapesa helped weather those years of controversy, reinforcing the idea of the importance of national parks, even orchestrating armed protection of park wildlife. He eventually helped establish cross-border cooperation with Rwanda and the DR of Congo.

“Another network to help manage migratory animals between Uganda and South Sudan is also in the pipeline. Today, the paper said, “the UWA ... is one of the biggest and strongest conservation bodies in Uganda’s post-colonial era. It is also one of the strongest conservation institutions across sub-Saharan Africa,” making the UWA “a springboard for conservation in Uganda and the neighbouring countries.”

Uganda Park's Noteworthy New Website

Also recently a column in The Observer, published in Kampala, Uganda, the paper’s Business Development Director Pius Katunzi praised the “sexy” new website of the Uganda Wildlife Authority, for a “punchy onslaught on cyberspace.”

Katunzi took the business angle with the coverage, saying, “The agency had kind of taken a cavalier approach to the inevitable bug of cyber-marketing. But when it woke up, it came in with a bang. It is not just a mere website but unique gateway to 10 micro-sites of Uganda’s national parks. This site will become, or has become, a one-stop centre for anyone who wants information on all the national parks.”

The website work was “supported by the United States International Agency for Development (USAID)” and has created “a site that links UWA to the social marketing avenues like Facebook, Twitter, TripAdvisor and YouTube.”

In a comment that reflects similar concerns in the United States and elsewhere, Katunzi also said the UWA needs to “influence school children to visit national parks. They need to find packages for different categories of Ugandans.”

High Water Closes Some National Park Area’s in Western Canada

Late last week, heavy rain and ongoing snowmelt combined to create “extremely high water levels” that closed a variety of trails and facilities across Western Canada.

Stories in the Canadian Press and the Winnipeg Free Press said high-water watches had affected Banff, Yoho, and Kootenay National Parks and resulted in facility closures by Parks Canada.

Concerns for “public safety,” closed the Fenland and Johnston Canyon trails in Banff, along with the Baker Creek day use area.

Trail bridges and sections of the Bow River Loop and Pipestone trails were shut down in Lake Louise, along with sections of the Lake Louise campground.

Yoho closures included Chancellor Peak campground and Finn Creek day use area, the Kicking Horse trail, the Wapta Lake footbridge and the back road from the community of Field.

The Stanley Glacier and Dog Lake trails were also closed in In Kootenay National Park.
The release said, “residents were advised to stay back from rivers and low lying areas, with parks officials saying river banks are unstable and fast-moving waters are carrying debris such as stumps and trees.”