The state minister for Tourism Godfrey Suubi Kiwanda has said that security has been heightened in Queen Elizabeth national park.
Kiwanda said that following the kidnap of an American tourist Kimberly Sue Endicott and her guide Jean Pierre Mirenge two weeks ago, several measures have been put in place to avoid a repeat of the unfortunate incident.
Kimberly and Mirenge were kidnapped by four armed men but released after five days later released after a ransom was allegedly paid.
Kiwanda revealed that joint security patrols comprising of Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) enforcement officers, tourism police and the Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) have been heightened within the park.
Whereas only UWA rangers are manning the entrance into the park, deep inside the national park, there are several armed policemen and UPDF soldiers on patrol. Kiwanda said that the kidnappers could have exploited the fact that there are eleven fishing communities within the park making it possible for criminal elements to hide within those communities.
"I want to take this opportunity to assure the public and the international community that our parks are very safe and the incident that happened in Ishasha last week is regrettable. It was an isolated incident that has helped us to review our operational weaknesses and tighten them….The security of our tourists is top priority." said Kiwanda.
UWA executive director Sam Mwandha revealed that UWA has already mapped out some areas considered to be risky within national parks and will not allow any visitors to tour them without UWA guides.
"We’re improving the patrols and deployment and depending on locations where the visitors will be, in some cases we’ll insist on visitors going with rangers if we realize that it is not very safe." said Mwandha.