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Sarah Mawerere, August 2020

Conservationists and tour operators in Uganda have raised concerns over the negative impact COVID-19 is having on their industries and are questioning how other zoonotic disease outbreaks could affect them in the future.

Uganda’s tourism service sector is a major foreign exchange earner, contributing about US$1.4 billion to the country’s economy annually. But it is threatened by new and re-emerging zoonotic diseases — those transmitted from animals to humans — such as Marburg, Scabies, Ebola and, now, the novel COVID-19, say researchers.

Those diseases are affecting wild animals, communities surrounding wildlife protected areas and tourists, said Dr. Gladys Kalema Zikusoka, executive director of Conservation Through Public Health, an international organization working in the conservation areas of Uganda, parts of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Senior Public Health Veterinary Officer at Uganda’s Ministry of Health, Dr. David Muwanguzi, explained that many of these zoonotic diseases have re-emerged, while others are completely new.

Although COVID-19 is a new disease, other types of coronaviruses have been found in animals like domestic cats and tigers, said Dr. Muwanguzi.

Dr. Patrick Atimnedi, senior manager of veterinary services at the Uganda Wildlife Authority, called upon tourists to observe guidelines, such as avoiding close contact with wildlife and maintaining hygiene and sanitation, to prevent the transmission of zoonotic diseases in the future.

Listen to the complete report by Sarah Mawerere by clicking on the audio player above.

This story first aired on UBC Radio Airwaves . It was supported with a grant from the Earth Journalism Network’s East Africa Wildlife Journalism project.

Banner image: Ankole longhorn cow, Uganda / Credit: Fredrick Mugira 

Water Journalists Africa

Water Journalists Africa (WJA) is the largest network of journalists reporting on water in the African continent. It brings together some 700 journalists from 50 African countries. It was established in 2011 in Cape Town South Africa with support from the UN-Water Decade Programme on Advocacy and Communication.

WJA is legitimately registered as an NGO with Uganda’s National Bureau for NGOs (NGO Bureau)

It is governed by a board of governors and an advisor body. The two bodies meet regularly to review the organization’s programs and projects.

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