Our March Friend of the Month is James Lutalo, Director for the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities in Uganda.
Did you grow up in a rural area, close to wildlife? Was that how yourinterest in conservation developed?
In fact I grew up in and around Kampala, from primary school right through to university. I first appreciated wildlife at secondary school, as a member of the Geography Club, when I visited some of Uganda’s famous wildlife areas; Queen Elizabeth, Murchison Falls, and Kidepo Valley National Parks.
You’ve had a varied career, from being a teacher, a trainer of game wardens and you’re now Director of the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities. Which of these positions has given you the most satisfaction?
My career has given me an appreciation of the challenges in wildlife conservation and sustainable tourism. As a warden and trainer, I was intrigued by the costs and benefits of conservation, which was why I decided to do a post-graduate degree in Environment Planning and Management. Now, as Director, I find it rewarding to lead teams in coordinating the development of national policies for wildlife conservation.
What are the biggest threats, in your opinion, to Uganda’s elephants?
Human population increase, and industrial developments that destroy previously undisturbed wildlife habitats.
Uganda’s human population is growing so quickly- are you confident there will still be space for elephants 30 years from now?
We have the strategies to withstand these pressures. Uganda’s wildlife protected areas systems plan has the potential to provide a window for the survival of elephants. After all, our elephant populations have recovered from their low point in the early 1980s.
In your current busy position, do you ever have time to disappear into the bush and see wildlife? If so, where is your favourite place in Uganda?
As Director, I have to visit conservation areas, to better understand the impact of our policies and plans. My favourite park…Queen Elizabeth National Park.