EJN Hosts Media Workshop on Wildlife and Conservation Reporting in Fort Portal, Uganda

people in forest

EJN Hosts Media Workshop on Wildlife and Conservation Reporting in Fort Portal, Uganda

From June 25 to July 1, 25 journalists attended a five-day workshop in Fort Portal, Uganda, as part of the East Africa Wildlife Journalism project

Located near the foot of Mt. Rwenzori, the third tallest mountain range in Africa, Fort Portal is about 1,500 meters above sea level and is often fondly described as the “Tourism City” of East Africa’s third largest economy. It is within driving distance of three national parks: Kibale Forest National Park, Queen Elizabeth National Park, and Semuliki National Park.

Through classroom-style sessions and field trips to national parks, workshop participants – selected through a competitive judging process – learned how researchers, Indigenous groups, local communities and policymakers are protecting their ecosystems and addressing major conservation threats in the region such as hunting, poaching and illegal trafficking.

men sitting around table
Joward Baluku, Wildlife Officer at the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities / Credit: Kiundu Waweru.

On the first day, participants heard from Joward Baluku, Wildlife Officer at the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, who emphasized the role of the media in helping to curb illegal activity.

"The stories you write, the stories you report on, these influence decisions made about wildlife," he said. "We look to the media to help society understand the value of wildlife."

In another session, Bashir Hangi, Communications Manager for the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) advised journalists: “Go deeper when telling wildlife and conservation stories. Show the benefits to livelihoods as well as benefits to wildlife,” he said. He called on editors to encourage more hopeful and uplifting stories in their environmental coverage too.

Ezaruku Franklin, one of the workshop participants, didn’t shy away from offering a rejoinder: "You say not enough positive stories are being written about wildlife. But we don't get information from the government when we request it, and our editors are demanding it. How do we harmonize this?"

Later in the afternoon, journalists had the opportunity to engage with Margaret Kasuma, a Law Enforcement Manager at the UWA, to gain a better understanding of conservation law in the country.

Highlights from day two included a Wildlife Use Patterns study with TRAFFIC’s Allen Mgaza and Jane Shuma, and a look at conservation and its implementation challenges. Later in the day, workshop participants were taken on a tour of Kibale National Park, for on-ground insights into how the UWA is working with communities to combat human-wildlife conflict.

On day three, participants attended a solutions-based journalism workshop with EJN trainer Kiundu Waweru, who leads the East Africa Wildlife Journalism project. “Your solutions stories should touch the five senses. It’s the mark of good storytelling,” he told participants.

EJN’s Investigative Journalism Editor in Africa, Benon Oluka, offered tips to reporters looking to improve their investigative work, and EJN Special Projects Editor Sam Schramski introduced them to data journalism. Participants took part in a series of hands-on activities, from developing interactive maps to using Google's environmental reporting tools.

"The stories you write, the stories you report on, these influence decisions made about wildlife. We look to the media to help society understand the value of wildlife.”

By the end of the day, participants had deepened their understand of the prevailing and emerging wildlife and conservation concerns in East Africa, and were equipped with tips and tools to tell compelling wildlife crime and conservation stories.

Later in the evening, in a vibrant setting surrounding by music and dance, Oxpeckers Environmental Journalism and InfoNile launched their newest digital platform: #WildEye East Africa, a geo-mapping tool that will now allow journalists, conservationists and policy-makers in the region to track and share data related to wildlife crime.

Read more about the launch of #WildEye East Africa here.

On the fourth day of the workshop, Daniel Ndizihiwe, World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) Uganda Manager led a classroom-style session on WWF Uganda’s Conservation efforts, and the InfoNile team conducted a practical training session on data and geo-journalism.

people sitting on a bus
Workshop participants en route to Queen Elizabeth National Park / Credit: Kiundu Waweru.

On a field trip to Queen Elizabeth National Park later in the afternoon, participants had the opportunity to meet with reformed poachers and women conservationists. Tuushabe Julius, a reformed poacher they met at Queen Elizabeth National Park, shared: "I see the benefits now [of conservation]. Now I no longer run away when I see wildlife authority vehicles; I welcome them.”

group of people under a blue sky
Group photo of workshop participants / Credit: Benon Oluka

The workshop concluded with an excursion to the nearby Nyamwamba River which is fed by melting glaciers from Mt. Rwenzori. The river regularly floods, causing local displacement in the nearby village, Kasese. Through a final biodiversity conservation session  with Leo Niskanen, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Regional Head, participants discussed how they would translate their experiences in the field into reported stories.

"My expectation from day one is that I would gain in-depth knowledge on how to pitch," said Emily Chebet of Citizen TV. "I also hoped to be able to network with the other participants as well as speakers. I got more than this, especially [on how to use] journalism tools. "We visited villages, and meeting and hearing personal stories from the local communities enriched the experience more. I intend to engage with the EJN experts like Benon Oluka on my first journey towards investigative journalism.”

"The workshop presentations, as well as the field trips exceeded my expectations," said Marie Jeanne Uwambayinema of Ijamboryumwana. "My highlight was meeting with reformed poachers and learning what they are now doing to conserve wildlife. The presentations on journalism tools [were especially] eye opening and I will be using some of them for investigations."


Participants are working on stories that will be published on the Earth Journalism Network website in the coming weeks. For more information on East Africa Wildlife Journalism project activities, click here.

Banner image: Kibale National Park / Credit: Benon Oluka.

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