With over 1070 bird species, Uganda cemented her place as a birding destination, thanks to 23-year-old Arshley Brian Baboineki, who emerged second to Costa Ricas Rodriguez, among 78 participating nations at the Intercontinental Birding Competition for Youths in Singapore held over the weekend. Kilmumani from Papua Guinea came in third, while participants from Ecuador and Russia took the 4th and 5th slots, respectively.
The two-week-long competition attracted 10 African countries, including Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Egypt, Liberia, and Madagascar. It focused on birds family identification around the world, continental birds, Aviary terms, assessment of migratory birds, bird quiz and presentation on aviary.
The competition targeted youth between 17 and 26 year of age, and was organized by the Singapore Tourism Board. It was conducted from three birding areas of Jurong Bird Park, Sungei Buloh and West Coast Park.
Baboineki bagged the silver medal, a trophy, field guide book of birds of Singapore and cash prize of $1,742.
“My heart kept pounding because the competition was so tight and everyone seemed worthy of a medal. Upon mentioning my name, tears rolled down my cheeks and my mind flashed back home,” said the ecstatic Baboineki in a telephone interview. Tears of joy surely, for a modest guide accustomed to the long hours in the wetlands, scrubs, rivers and forests, who received a reception on arrival at the airport that has hitherto been reserved for athletes and rock stars.
While this competition was going on, Ugandan birders, led by ‘Nature Uganda‘, Uganda Tourism Board, Uganda Wildlife Authority, National Forestry Authority, Uganda Safari Guides Association and the youth, who showed up in big numbers, joined the rest of the Birding World in marking the annual ‘Big Birding Day’ in a 24-hour bird counting race – an event where Brian earned his ’birding rights‘ over the years.
Brian expressed his gratitude to Samuel James Ferguson of The Sustainable Birding Company for sponsoring his trip.
This is indeed testimony to investing in youth, for this accolade shall in turn inspire the youth, and most of all change mindsets of many of Brian’s kinsmen, yet to come to come to grips with birding.