Habitat Restoration and Ecotourism for Chimpanzees, Uganda

The Bulindi Chimpanzee and Community Project aims to conserve the highly threatened populations of wild chimpanzees living in unprotected, rapidly disappearing  habitat alongside poor, rural farmers in Western Uganda’s critical Budongo-Bugoma corridor landscape.

 
photo credit Jacqueline Rohen
photo credit Jacqueline Rohen

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The Project

Western Uganda’s Hoima district is dominated by village and agricultural land but small forests occur along watercourses and valleys throughout the 1000 km2 region. These unprotected forests are owned by local village households and provide critical habitat for a population of 300 wild chimpanzees, as well as other primates including black and white colobus, vervets, baboons, and the endangered Ugandan mangabey. Hoima’s small forests have additional conservation value as a wildlife corridor linking two large protected areas to the north and south. The area is threatened by unregulated tourism, pressure for development, and agricultural expansion. The removal of forest leads to crop-raiding by chimpanzees, which are then trapped or killed. For many households the forest is their only source of income. This project will work with local communities to develop local livelihood alternatives from sustainable ecotourism alongside woodlots and ‘chimp friendly’ coffee farming to reduce pressure on natural forest. Tree nurseries will be established and 200,000 coffee trees, 200,000 native species for enrichment planting, and 200,000 fast-growing exotics for woodlots, will be grown. A thorough biodiversity survey will be conducted, guidelines for best practice ecotourism and visitor enhancement will be drawn up, 150 energy-saving stoves will be constructed, and there will be local educational outreach for schoolchildren and adults.
 
photo credit Matthew McLennan
photo credit Matthew McLennan

The Update

Update October 2018:
The project is progressing well, despite unforeseen challenges, such as weather and delays to the start of biodiversity surveys at one site. In fact, delays resulted in an expansion to the surveying by incorporating two additional sites while waiting for access!

The project is successfully funding daily monitoring of three resident chimpanzee groups in the Hoima corridor. Data collection includes diet and use of agricultural crops to help understand and predict human-chimpanzee conflicts in the area. This, combined with biodiversity surveys, is helping to establish habitat use, the conflicts of interest, and the potential for sustainable tourism. One of the biggest conflicts is with sugarcane growers. The next stage of the project is to look into potential solutions to such conflict.

Two new tree nurseries have been established and a third has been restored (each in a different village). Locally employed people look after these nurseries and attended regular training sessions to improve their skills. So far 175,400 tree seedlings have been raised and distributed to over 600 registered farmers in 61 villages within the ranges of five of the estimated ten resident ‘corridor chimpanzee’ groups. Tree species include: eucalyptus, indigenous Maesopsis (producing edible fruit), and indigenous mahoganies. Some of these trees will provide a sustainable source of income in woodlots away from the forest, whilst most of the indigenous seedlings are being planted at the forest edge and along watercourses. More planting is due to be undertaken in March-May 2019.

200,000 high quality robusta coffee seedlings have been raised and are being maintained in the tree nurseries. More than 600 farmers are registered and are receiving training and guidance on coffee farming. The coffee plants are to be planted out in March-May 2019.

150 energy saving stoves have been constructed. Training is scheduled, after which time these stoves will be distributed throughout the villages in the area.

Two primary schools have been contacted and discussions initiated with a view to start educational activities in February 2019.

Community outreach meetings have been carried out and aim to help residents coexist more easily with chimpanzees.

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We are hugely grateful for the support of the European Outdoor Conservation Association, without whose support we could never have realised such an ambitious project.
Hugo Tagholm, Surfers Against Sewage