Supporting Primate Conservation in the Bugoma Forest

Supporting Primate Conservation in the Bugoma Forest

By Talyn Williams

We all love the outdoors, but growing human population is putting pressure on those wild places that surround us; demand for resource is rising and space is at a premium.

The Bugoma Forest is a rainforest situated in North-Western Uganda and is one of these many wild places that are under threat by our own growth. Home to a huge variety of fauna and flora, the Bugoma Forest is home to around 10% of Uganda's Chimpanzees and the loss of such a habitat would be devastating.

Based in St Andrews, Scotland, Dr Cat Hobaiter has worked with primates in Uganda for 15 years and is co-director of the Bugoma Primate Conservation Project (BPCP). The BPCP are a small team of people that are working hard to protect the forest as well as educate locals about how they can be involved in the conservation of the forest. Cat got in touch with us at the Alpkit Foundation to tell us a little more about the threat to the Bugoma Forest and what the BPCP have been doing...

"The Bugoma Forest is under urgent threat: illegal timber loggers target old growth trees,hunters target a wide range of speciesincluding primates,and human population pressure has increased substantially over the past few years. Our 9 Ugandan field-staff work long 12hr days to monitor and protect the local primate populationsand visit local communities most weeks for conservation education classes. We're the only conservation project in this forest,we've worked with local communities to get their support and we're starting to make a real difference."

The work the BPCP are doing is incredible and truly inspiring, so when Cat asked the Alpkit Foundation for a little help to keep the team warm and dry during the harsh wet season conditions in a dense rainforest, we felt privileged to be able to help out. Cat told us about the team's difficulties and the impact they're having...

"Our rainforest lives up to its name: it's dense,darkand wet, keeping our staff warm and dry on long tough days is really important for their health and wellbeing. But the work is really hard on field gear and replacing it regularly is a major cost that we find tough to manage.

The Bugoma Forest reserve is the only significant forest left in the Hoima area of Uganda. As well as providing a home to a rich ecosystem of endangered species (from chimpanzees to golden cats)its impact on local communities is significant. As well as providing access for immediate needs such as firewood and traditional medicinesit has a significant impact on the ecology of the wider area. For many yearslarge areas have been clear-cut for intensive agriculturesuch as sugar-cane production. Where forest is lost it changes the entire local ecosystemimpacting soil nutrientsclean water access and even local rainfall patternswhich in turn impact local communities' subsistence agricultural practices. There are over 100,000 people in the wider Hoima area - the majority of which are dependent on subsistence agriculture.

On a smaller scale we've been working with local schools over the past year (13 so far) to set up conservation classes and we are hoping to start a wildlife club in the next few months. This will allow us to take smaller groups of students for nature walks in the forest. Local children are often sent into the forest to fetch water or firewood but often them the forest is considered a 'dangerous place' - somewhere to get in and out of as quickly as possible. We hope that by showing them a different side to the forest they will become increasingly involved in taking the lead to protect it."

By teaching the younger generation about the importance of sustainability and the conservation of such an area of significance like the Bugoma Forest, Cat and the BPCP are ensuring a better future for all of us where we can hope to grow in a positive and sustainable way.

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