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Africa Geographic
Wildlife . People . Travel
Africa Geographic Travel


Deep in my desk drawer I have a thick swatch of business cards given to me during a visit to South Africa in 2008 to attend the 12th Pan-African Ornithological Congress. Some are from the usual academics and bird conservation workers from across the African continent and beyond. Many other cards came from a disparate group of bird guides from a long list of countries – Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, Nigeria, Burundi and Uganda among others.


One of the cards in my drawer was given to me by Herbert Byaruhanga, a keen birder and guide from Uganda who was very interested in the added value that local bird knowledge could do to enhance his business and that of his fellow bird guides.

I’d had similar conversations with local bird guides in Kenya the previous year and take some small measure of pleasure in seeing that local knowledge of birds has now become an integral part of bird guiding, at least in the east African states.

Since that time I’ve tracked Herbert and his colleagues at the Uganda Tourism Association and his company Bird Uganda Safaris through social media. Herbert is a tireless promoter of Uganda in particular and east Africa generally as destinations of choice for birding and wildlife tourism.

He and others have long recognised the value of  local wildlife guiding as a means to foster local economic development and of the need for professional training and development; working particularly with the Uganda Safari Guides Association and the Uganda Tourism Association.


But for mine the greatest work that Herbert and his colleagues have achieved is the encouragement of young birders and women – like Martha Nzisa above – as bird guides through the Uganda Women Birders and the Uganda Young Birders groups.


As far as I’m concerned, Herbert and the keen young birders of Uganda and elsewhere in east Africa deserve all the support that we can give them, whether it be by using their services when we travel to their part of the world or by providing assistance in kind – like sending our used binoculars for young birders after we’ve moved onto something better.

One of the methods that Herbert and his colleagues use to spread the word about birding and wildlife tourism is to travel to ornithology conferences and events like the American Birding Expo and the UK’s BirdFair, which was where Herbert was headed last week to present his paper Ecotourism Development in Uganda – Birds and Birding.

The abstract for Herbert’s well-anticipated paper reads: “Birding increasingly contributes to ecotourism in Uganda, especially in communities neighbouring tourism areas. The number of bird guides has grown exponentially and communities that once destroyed habitats, now cherish them.”

All well and good, except there was a problem. On Friday last week Herbert posted a short note on Facebook:

“No visa for my UK trip to attend the British Birdwatching Fair. I have been to UK many times. I have no interest of staying in UK. I was going for less than 7 days. It was made it clear to them that I am a bird guide who will be at the Uganda Stand and will make a talk about birding in Uganda. The first time I went to UK in 2001 I did not even have an account in the bank. But the consul in South Africa thinks that I am likely not to come back to Uganda… I have a lot more to do in Uganda than in UK.”

Somehow I don’t think that Herbert’s disappointment at the rather curious visa decision will diminish his, or his colleagues’, enthusiasm for birding and guiding or his support for other birders and guides.

uganda-jumping Leupold
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