Amidst the increasing birthrates of among the chimpanzees population in Uganda’s protected areas, there have been concerns of rapid loss habitats which have increased incidences of human wildfire conflicts along the protected areas.
The communities who are the primary custodians of these conservation sites have often blamed apparent spate of violent attacks by chimpanzees on low response from UWA. According to Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), there is a lot that needs to be done jointly to protect private forests and natural homes of the chimps from destruction.
The destruction is largely attributed to increasing demand for growing crops for food and to make a living is seen as more beneficial than the forest stopping erosion, and keeping the chimps away.
The situation which had worsened with outbreak of COVID 19 has impacted on livelihoods pushing the host communities to encroach on conservation areas to seek livelihood options and this present threat to habitats destruction and species loss. These habitats being encouraged are a home to some of the most critical, endangered and vulnerable species in Uganda such as Chimpanzee that must be protected to prevent species loss and extinction.
In effort to reduce habitat loss, Environment Governance Institute (EGI) with the support from IUCN Save Our Species and co-funded by the European Union conducted a community capacity building training on alternative livelihoods options in Hoima, Kibaale, Masindi, Buliisa and Kiryandongo districts to empower communities and build their resilient capacity to adapt and apply alternative land-use and livelihood practices to secure their livelihood rights (food security, improved incomes and climate-resilient). This will help limit or stop them from destroying wildlife habitats and engaging in illegal activities including poaching.
The Participants who were derived from the tourism sites around Murchison falls landscapes were trained on topics related to community livelihood options such as climate-smart agriculture for crop growing, horticulture, beekeeping practices, the relevance of conservation in times of crises, and value addition among others.
Ms. Katusiime Joyce of Kyamarere women handcraft association appreciated EGI for responding to their recue. She narrated to the meeting that since the cut down of Mpalagansi community forest, Life is already hard enough for families around the remaining forest. She said that they could barely grow food for themselves, and now a group of desperate, crop raiding chimpanzee threatened their livelihood, maybe even their safety.
She added that “chimps come closer to our homes searching for food, ripping bananas from the trees, grabbing mangoes and jackfruits and whatever else tempted them”.
Ms. Katusiime added that “a chimpanzee came in the garden when I was busy digging. The three year old daughter was in the nearby tree shade, as she was mothering with hard fieldwork, but she turned her back to get her some drinking water. The chimp saw his chance, grabbed her three years old daughter by the hand and ran.
The girl’s screaming brought other villagers, who helped the mother give chase. But the chimp was rough and strong, and the fatal damage occurred fast. “It juried her on the hand and the head”. She said.
She added that her daughter was taken to the nearby health clinic and later the community health.
She reported the case to UWA and police, it is bad that update, UWA has not compensated my daughter yet she continues to sustain with juries on her body.
Ms. Akanyijuka Doreen from Bulindi village member of Twimukyangane group informed the meeting that she sent her son and daughter to collect water, upon reaching to the well; they saw a group of chimpanzees surrounding the well. They shouted at the chimps but they were unmoved. With little hope of success, the elder boy run away and left the young sister behind. The chimps carried the daughter into the forest.
She noted that her daughter sustained bruises on her body and she was rushed to the Clinic where she received treatment.
Mr. Ssegujja Robert of Pachwa lead farmers association informed the meeting that there is increasing loss of forest reserves which used to provide food and habitat for chimpanzees, has caused chimps to stray into communities in search of food and a habitat.
Without available food in the wild habitat, the chimpanzees will naturally look for foods in the neighbouring community. He called upon community members to stop destroying wildlife habitats.
In efforts to address the above challenges, EGI with partnership from UWA trained communities especially the youth and women groups on traditional dance and drum to have strong message to link biodiversity and the landscape, as they borrow movements from animals and act stories related to biodiversity.
The dance and drum act as tool for promoting the conservation among the tourism host communities in the area.
Furthermore, EGI has embarked on restoration programs such as afforestation and re-afforestation. In addition, EGI has also trained communities on livelihoods option such as climate-smart agriculture for crop growing, horticulture, beekeeping practices, mushroom growing, the relevance of conservation in times of crises, and value addition among others.
This has enabled communities to engage income generating activities while promoting conservation of wildlife.
This publication was produced with the financial support of the European Union through IUCN Save Our Species. Its contents are the sole responsibility of Environment Governance Institute and do not necessarily reflect the views of IUCN or the European Union
Cirrus Kabaale, Project Officer at Environment Governance Institute (EGI)