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Wildlife revival: Conservation wins for tigers and gorillas | Environment



As we mark World Conservation Day this week, it is a good time for some heartening news from the environmental world, which shows how the determined efforts of the few can create positive change and even bring species back from the brink.

Deep in central Africa – where the borders of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Uganda meet – lies one of the most ancient habitats on the continent and the last refuge of one of the rarest animals on earth: the mountain gorilla.

By the 1980s, the effects of decades of devastating civil war and unbridled poaching had reduced their numbers to about 350 animals. The shadow of extinction was closing in.

When we flew through the mist swirling over forest-clad mountains in 2011, the primate was still critically endangered. From above we could see how the hillsides had been stripped bare for cultivation, butting up against the edge of Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, where half the world’s remaining mountain gorillas live.

The potential for conflict between man and great ape was clear, the fields providing easy pickings for the gorillas which were often subsequently killed in large numbers.

A mountain gorilla in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park [File: Thomas Mukoya/Reuters]

Fear and wonder

After a sweltering trek of several hours through the rainforest, we homed in on a gorilla group. I remember being so close that we could pick out their scent – pretty much how pungent, sweaty humans would smell after a lifetime without shower gel. They share 98 percent of our DNA after all.

Suddenly Safari, a big alpha male, bowled purposefully into view, stopped and stared us down. We were frozen by an adrenalising combination of fear and wonder. As he shambled off into the undergrowth, a couple of infants, no more than two years old, crashed about in the trees. Their mother, sitting on her haunches, sat calmly observing, chewing handfuls of fibrous leaves.

The fact that these gorillas were there at all is down to the success of the International Gorilla Conservation Programme. A 12km long buffer zone had been established along the fringes of the national park, protecting the gorillas and so allowing tourist dollars to flow. Locals could then get a job with the conservation programme itself, becoming guides or trackers, while others could make money from basket weavings and carvings.

In 2018, the primate’s status was changed from critically endangered to endangered, with its population noted to be “increasing”. Today, mountain gorillas in the wild number more than 1,000.

INTERACTIVE: The Green Read - gorillas and tigers

Dangers during the pandemic

Mountain gorillas have seen a spectacular revival, but there are new dangers, so efforts must be redoubled.

COVID-19 and the absence of cash-rich Westerners have affected local livelihoods with government officials in central Africa warning that people could resort to poaching out of desperation.

Conservationists, though, are determined not to lose the gains made by decades of work. The populations of mountain gorillas must continue to thrive and grow.

Cross River gorilla babies

Meanwhile, recent photos of another sub-species – the Cross River gorilla – have been released, taken in the mountains of southern Nigeria.

At most 300 are known to exist in the wild but the pictures show a number of infant gorillas with the group. And when animals at risk of extinction are reproducing, that can only be good news.

INTERACTIVE: The Green Read - gorillas and tigers

Tigers rebound

This week also marks Global Tiger Day and here too they are bending the curve. Wild tiger numbers are increasing in five countries.

In India – in a recovery the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) called an “astonishing success” – the estimate of tigers in the wild more than doubled between 2006 and 2018. In Nepal, numbers have nearly doubled since 2009. In the Royal Manas National Park in Bhutan, they more than doubled from 2010 to 2018. And in China and the Russian Far East, tiger populations are increasing and dispersing into new areas, the NGO said. 

Elsewhere, conservation group Panthera captured just-released footage of tigers from a forest in western Thailand, where the endangered animals have not been seen for years. 

“From an historic population low in 2010, tigers are finally making a remarkable comeback in much of South Asia, Russia and China,” said Stuart Chapman, leader of WWF’s Tigers Alive Initiative. “And that’s great news for the other threatened species they share their home with, and also the millions of people dependent on these ecosystems.”

The importance of tiger conservation is evident in that Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia have already lost their total tiger populations, while Myanmar is thought to have just 23 individuals left. And all tigers are under intense pressure from the illegal wildlife trade, especially in China.

So as threats and challenges continue to grow, this week it is hats off to the unsung heroes of the conservation world. From bringing Red Kites back from the brink in the British countryside to protecting the peatlands of the Congo Basin, from preserving endangered Arctic lichens to enabling the return of beavers in northern Europe, let these stories of success inspire us in challenging times.

INTERACTIVE: The Green Read - gorillas and tigers

Your environment round-up

1. Environmental murders: A total of 212 land defenders were killed in 2019, with the majority of deaths in Latin America, according to a report by Global Witness. The five most deadly countries were Colombia, the Philippines, Brazil, Mexico and Honduras.

2. Nuclear fusion: As the world scrambles for more renewable sources of energy, construction has begun on the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor. Funded by 35 nations, the megaproject plans to replicate fusion – the process that powers the sun – by colliding hydrogen nuclei to generate heat. It is the world’s first industrial-scale device of its kind, and aims to create limitless, waste-free energy.

3. Bushfires: A new report estimates that almost three billion animals were killed or displaced by Australia’s bushfires between 2019 and 2020. Dermot O’Gorman, WWF-Australia’s chief executive officer, calls it “one of the worst wildlife disasters in modern history”.

4. US elections: With the Donald Trump administration rolling back environmental protections, and the US preparing to leave the Paris climate agreement on November 4 – just one day after the presidential polls – many worry that the fight to save the planet will be harder than ever if Trump is re-elected.

5. Ancient seaweed: A team of scientists has found 16,000-year-old kelp off the coasts of Ireland, Scotland and France, which they hope can help us better understand marine plants’ responses to extreme climate changes.

The final word

Chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans have been living for hundreds of thousands of years in their forest, living fantastic lives, never overpopulating, never destroying the forest. I would say that they have been in a way more successful than us as far as being in harmony with the environment.

Jane Goodall, Primatologist


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Year of the Overcomer-Prophet Elvis Mbonye



The eagerly awaited first fellowship of controversial Prophet Elvis Mbonye left viewers shocked as he declined to issue his now famous prophecies citing a refusal to settle for the new normal. In an on online service watched by thousands, the Prophet said him prophesying would “ be a concession to gathering online, rather than physically” further stating that it is not the will of God that church should meet online!

The Covid-19 SOPs given by the government and Ministry of Health have heavily impacted gatherings and as a result, ministries with large congregations have resorted to online services. The prophet however insists that this is a ploy to diminish the influence of the Kingdom of God.

He however proceeded to give the Prophetic Word of the year , saying “This is the year of the Overcomers” amidst cheers from those present. He also stated that this would not be a “gloomy” year, probably meaning that this would be a good year. Given that many of his prophecies have actually come to pass, should we pay more attention to him? We eagerly await the prophecies this year.

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Kabuleta blasts Media over “COFIT” reporting in new rant.



Presidential hopeful Joseph Kiiza Kabuleta has expressed dissatisfaction with the media over what he says was”alarmist reporting” over the Covid-19 pandemic which he calls “COFIT” a term we believe is a wordplay between covid and profit, a view held by many that claims that the disease was exaggerated to maximize funding and corruption. Kabuleta has come to be known for his straight shooting style and admirable command of facts and policy, even being touted as the “smartest candidate” in the is the full statement:


By Joseph Kabuleta

“Don’t look at where you fell, but where you slipped”

We know where the media fell. They fell when they were caught in the crossfire between opposition politicians and trigger-happy security hitmen; when they were unfairly targeted as they went about their noble duty of covering this explosive elective season. Sadly, some journalists are nursing wounds; others weren’t so lucky.
But it’s important for us to understand where they slipped.

If someone is sitting by the roadside sipping on his brew and he sees a gang of people sprinting past him, as if for their lives, it’s understandable if he impulsively joins without asking questions. But if after nine months he is still sprinting, and has still not asked any questions, then there’s something terribly wrong with him.

When we first went into lockdown in March, it was probably the best course of action because we didn’t know the full extent of the Cofit threat. But in the first 90 days, it was clear to all and sundry that it was never going to rank among Uganda’s top health challenges. And that’s not my opinion.

The Daily Monitor on July 15th quoted Dr Baterana Byarugaba, the Mulago Hospital Executive Director, describing the Cofit strain in the country as a mild form of flu which does not require hospital admission since it can be treated at home or in lower health facilities.
“l told Ugandans right from the beginning that the type of coronavirus we expect in Uganda is the mild one. It can be treated at health centre II, III, IV or the district hospital,” the top Medic said.

I read the story with glorious delight supposing that finally common sense, (or should I say science sense) would inform our decisions as a nation. But it’s difficult to know where science stops and politics starts. It’s become clear over the months that Cofit is not just a virus that causes respiratory problems, it’s a lot more than that; it’s a weapon in the hands of politicians that gives them power beyond their wildest dreams. In America, for instance, Democrat Congressman Jim Clyburn said Cofit is a “tremendous opportunity to restructure things to fit our (leftist) vision” while actress and activist Jane Fonda said that Cofit was “God’s gift to the left.”

Our media could have taken the side of poor Ugandans by showing the immense suffering and death from preventable sicknesses that resulted from the harsh Cofit measures; they could have highlighted the plight of businesses permanently closed and workers rendered redundant and sent back to villages. They could have wondered why truck drivers were testing negative in Kenya and positive in Uganda, or wondered why Cofit deaths only started after Prophet Museveni showed us a macabre lineup of coffins in his address, or why every celebrity who dies since then is ruled as Cofit (no autopsy required)

They could have told us that according to Worldometer, Cofit has a 0.28% mortality rate (or a 99.72 survival rate) and that it doesn’t rank anywhere in the Top 10 of Uganda’s health challenges; they could have told us that a child dies of malaria every two minutes (and Uganda accounts for 3% of the world’s malaria fatalities), which means that more Ugandans die from mosquitoes in ten days than Cofit has (allegedly) killed in the nine months it’s been on our lips.

Ugandans (especially of my age) have lived through real pandemics. As a young man growing up in the early 90s, nobody had to remind me that AIDS was real. Goodness me, I knew it was! And I didn’t need police to force me to wear protection, I knew the consequences. The fact that we are constantly being reminded that ‘Cofit is real’ tells a story of its own.

The media could have asked why Uganda, with one of the lowest Cofit cases or deaths, still holds on to a 9:00pm curfew when Kenya moved to 11:00pm in September, as did South Africa and several countries. The media could have told us that Malawi, Burundi, Tanzania and, recently, Ghana all held successful elections with full blown campaigns in 2020, and we aren’t hearing people dropping dead from Cofit in any of those countries. May be they should have tried to find out if people are dropping dead in Tanzania which altogether ignored all Cofit measures and went on to acquire middle-income status while Ugandans were still in lockdown.

They could have told us about the asymptomatic Cofit patients who were filmed dancing the night away in hospital wards, or of people suffering from other diseases who dare not go to hospital because they fear to be given a fake Cofit label and held for two weeks against their will.

The media could have told us that Cofit deaths across the world have been grossly inflated. Minnesota lawmakers say Cofit deaths could have been inflated by 40% after examining death certificates (according to The Washington Examiner) while Fox News reported that in Colorado 45% of Cofit corpses “were also found to have bullet wounds”.

They could have told us that 22 European countries, all of which had tens of thousands of Cofit deaths, opened their schools in the fall, and there has not been any reported spikes in cases as a result. They could have told us that more people have been killed by security men enforcing Cofit measures than by the virus itself.

Well, they could have…but they didn’t. And that’s where they slipped.

Instead they chose to go down the path of alarmist reporting and in so doing became, inadvertently or otherwise, enablers of Uganda’s trillion-shilling Cofit enterprise. Like Squealer in George Orwell’s Animal Farm, the media used flowery language to drum up fear by keeping people’s eyes transfixed on swelling numbers while the thieves carried their loot and stashed it away, and loan money was distributed among family members or used in regime prolongation.

The recent joint television news bulletin, and the adverts that followed, were the peak of hysterical reporting. “Zuukuka Tusaanawo” (wake up, we are perishing) screamed an advert featuring top media personalities. What a load of……(fill in appropriate word).

Remember, all the tyranny we have witnessed in this season has been done in the name of Cofit, and such sensationalist reporting justifies it; it gives dictators like Museveni the perfect pseudo-moralistic cover to unleash their most despotic fantasies while actually pretending that it’s for the good of the people. Unfortunately, the terror has now spread to the very media people whose hyperbole enabled it in the first place. There is such a thing as the law of cause and consequence, after all.

Instead of the media walking out of pressers and threatening to boycott government functions, let them threaten to stop all Cofit reporting. Museveni himself would come running with chocolate in hand.

If the president extended curfew by just two hours, for instance, he will have put as many as 200,000 Ugandans back to work especially in the hotel, restaurant and entertainment industries; but he doesn’t care, and sadly neither do many middleclass Ugandans who suppose that it’s their moral obligation as responsible citizens of the Global Village to fret over Cofit just because their ‘fellow citizens’ in Europe and America are doing so. Of course they can afford to do that because their corporate jobs have, for the most part, insulated them from the devastation of the government-instituted Cofit measures. They can enjoy working at home, beer in hand, as they listen to CNN and BBC and still expect the full complement of their salaries at the month end, and that makes them feel every bit like ‘their brothers’ overseas.

Such aspirational conformists are more likely to be offended by my stance on Cofit because they haven’t traversed crook and creek of this country and seen the damage reigned on this fragile society; not by the virus, but by the measures supposedly instituted to mitigate it.

You see, perhaps the most enduring damage this regime has done to our society is creating a three-part hierarchy of class and needs. At the zenith are a handful of connected ‘1986 generation’ and their families who feel entitled to all power and wealth. Beneath is a small (and shrinking) middleclass, and at the bottom of the pyramid is a mass of peasants. Every society, to various degrees, is ordered in the same fashion, but what makes Uganda unique is that the megalomaniacs at the top don’t give a nickel about the plight of the middleclass and the middleclass in turn don’t care a bit about the quandary of the peasant. The charlatans at the top will impose punitive taxes on the middleclass, then dip into NSSF coffers at a whim to share out their savings, and no one can stop them.

And the middleclass Ugandan, armed with his medical insurance, and safe in the knowledge that his wife is unlikely to die in child birth (20 Ugandans do EVERY DAY), and his children are very unlikely to die of malaria (20 do EVERY DAY), or from malnutrition (thousands do every year), will go around trumpeting Cofit because it’s more relevant to his status than malnutrition or malaria.

I could just as easily go down that path. I could also close my eyes to mothers failing to get breast milk because they can only afford half a meal a day (black tea with a piece of cassava), and the malnourished babies that emerge as a result; I could close my eyes to the teenage girls that were given out in marriage because schools closed, or those given out to meet family needs; I could ignore the fact that our president is opening 5-star markets in cities which have 1-star referral hospitals; I could also choose to look the other way and enjoy my middleclass lifestyle, but as an aspiring leader, I cannot.

As a leader, my aspiration is to remove the privileged/entitled class, to expand the middleclass (and their income), and to shrink the peasantry; but mostly to blur the lines that separate each category.
It doesn’t bode well for our country if the average Corporate Ugandan knows more about racism in America than about extreme poverty in Teso or Busoga because that disqualifies him/her from the solution to those local problems.

And finally, I have come to the realization that the biggest pandemic afflicting our country is poverty and the virus that causes it is called M7-1986. Vaccination against it is January 14

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Muntu Blocked in Kamwenge



Alliance for National Transformation presidential candidate Gen. Mugisha Muntu has been blocked from campaigning in Kamwenge according to a statement he released earlier today.Below is the full statement:

Today in Kamwenge, as we have done since the start of the campaign season, we headed out to speak with the people. We had earlier in the week agreed on the venue with security agencies. No one had anticipated that it would rain as much as it did, making it impossible for us or the people to access.

After identifying an alternative place only 100m away from the original venue, negotiating with the owner and communicating the same to the public, we headed to the second venue only to be stopped by police.

Our policy has always been to do all we can to be reasonable, even in the face of unreasonable action on the part of the state. We engaged the police leadership in a civilized, respectable manner well knowing that they intended to not only frustrate us, but cause us to act in ways that would give them an excuse to cause chaos. This was on top of their intimidating the radio we had booked and duly paid to appear on.

While we are confident that we are on the right side of both the law and reason, we have chosen not to endanger the lives of our supporters or the general public by escalating the situation. We will do everything humanly possible to avoid a single life being lost or blood being shed on account of our campaign.

And yet this truth remains: the regime’s days are numbered.



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