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ITFC honors Professor F. I.B Kayanja for his dedication to the conservation of Bwindi’s Mountain Gorillas

On the 17th and 18th July, ITFC and UWA held an annual research information sharing workshop in Ruhija, Bwindi whose theme was “25 years of research collaboration between Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), partners and Mbarara University Science and Technology (MUST), realizing effective and sustainable partnership in conservation”. One individual who has been at the helm of this collaborative research between UWA and partners is none other than the distinguished Prof. F.I.B Kayanja. Indeed there was no better time of honoring his contributions towards the establishment of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and the conservation of its Gorillas than at this year’s ITFC/UWA information sharing workshop. Paying tribute to Prof. Kayanja for his commendable service in conservation was undoubtly  the biggest highlight of the workshop.

Prof. Kayanja, who will be retiring from public service on the 24th October 2014, was very pivotal in the establishment of a research institute of MUST-the Institute of Tropical Forest Conservation (ITFC) and gazettement of Bwindi forest into a national park in 1991. Before then, the Bwindi’s mountain gorillas were on the verge of extinction. By the establishment of the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Bwindi’s Gorillas were saved from extinction a task Prof. Kayanja painstakingly achieved. Furthermore, ITFC was the first of its kind that that specialized in tropical forest ecology including research on Mountain Gorillas. ITFC has helped train many Ugandans and others in these fields since 1991. At this years workshop MUST with its field research institute (ITFC) was commemorating 25 years of partnership with UWA and other partners.

During the workshop, on behalf of ITFC, Dr. Robert Bitariho (the director-ITFC) surprised the whole entire workshop by presenting a surprise souvenir of a mountain gorilla painting to Prof. Kayanja. This was after he read out a long list of citations of Prof. Kayanja’s contributions to conservation in Uganda. The citation was concluded with a phrase from one UWA senior warden that Prof. Kayanja was a “god” father of conservation in Uganda. “I am greatly humbled” was a response from Prof. Kayanja while he received the souvenir.

Dr Robert Bitariho reads out a citation of Prof. Kayanja before presenting to him the souvenir with the help of BMCA Conservation Area Manager, Mr. Pontious Ezuma (to the left) and Bwindi Southern sector Chief warden, Mr. John Justice Tibesigwa (to the right).

Dr Robert Bitariho reads out a citation of Prof. Kayanja before presenting to him the souvenir with the help of BMCA Conservation Area Manager, Mr. Pontious Ezuma (to the left) and Bwindi Southern sector Chief warden, Mr. John Justice Tibesigwa (to the right).

Prof. Kayanja receiving the souvenir midst heavy applause from the audience.

Prof. Kayanja receiving the souvenir midst heavy applause from the audience.

Prof. Kayanja later blessed the occasion with a captivating key not speech, during which he emphasized that his contribution, General Moses Ali and Dr. Eric Edroma in the gazetting of Bwindi Impenetrable forest as a national park was to be highly revered. Prof. Kayanja astonished the audience when he made a very generous offer for his support in all matters of ITFC even during his retirement. “ITFC is my brainchild,” he added, while an enchanted audience listened with bated breath as he spoke about the importance of handling the legacy that ITFC is. “The challenge I leave with you is to be satisfied with the fruits of your labor in your youth, just as I have done.” He concluded his speech by thanking and appreciating all partners and their contribution towards conservation, especially for the dream that ITFC and UWA have become.

Prof. Kayanja giving  a keynote speech at the recently concluded ITFC/UWA information sharing workshop, Ruija

Prof. Kayanja giving a keynote speech at the recently concluded ITFC/UWA information sharing workshop in Ruhija

Several speakers would agree, that it’s never an easy task to speak after Prof. Kayanja. However, many of the well-prepared workshop participants stood up to the challenge and embraced this unique opportunity to stand on the same podium to present their research findings. Catch these proceedings in our next blog.

Best regards,

Emmanuel Akampulira, Robert Bitariho and Badru Mugerwa