Achilles has been a passionate voice for birds in Uganda for 27 years. In 2010, when he led a campaign to stop the government ‘giving away’ the Mabira forest reserve to sugarcane growers, he received death threats. However, his efforts were not only successful, but saved other gazetted forests across the country from similar fates.
As an equally strong advocate for wetlands, Achilles was instrumental in the identification of Important Bird Areas (IBAs), enabling the designation of 12 Ramsar sites across Uganda. These designations represented the first time that areas of huge importance to Uganda’s biodiversity were internationally recognised outside of formal protected area. Uganda’s wetlands are no longer wastelands but productive ecosystems for conservation, climate change mitigation and supporting local livelihoods.
As Executive Director of NatureUganda, he has been crucial in gaining buy-in from local communities. When he joined in 1994, the organisation had 14 members. Today, it is Uganda’s biggest membership organisation, with 3,500 members and strong programmes on awareness, education, research and monitoring.
I am proud that we promote birds and that they are one of the main attractions to the country. Tourism is employing and delivering livelihoods for many Ugandans, providing livelihoods for local people – the custodians of nature.”