02/02/2021 in Conservation
The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) has partnered with the Budongo Conservation Field Station (BCFS) in Uganda since 2005. For 16 years we’ve worked together to protect the Budongo Forest and the 800 chimpanzees who call it home.
BCFS’s holistic approach focuses on three areas: research, conservation and training. Although best known for their long-term chimpanzee behaviour and ecology research, the field station team also collect data on birds, amphibians, reptiles, trees, and climate and have contributed to world class scientific studies. This makes the Budongo Forest one of the best studied habitats in East Africa.
Alongside local outreach efforts, the BCFS vet team initiated the creation of nation-wide chimp health management guidelines. Their onsite veterinary centre supports daily monitoring activities, including a One Health Programme set up by the team to detect and monitor disease outbreaks in the chimp populations, and manages a busy schedule of interns and training opportunities for Ugandan vet students.
Working with local communities is an integral part of the BCFS programme. By providing training for skills like tailoring or masonry and alternative livelihoods, the team have been able to change mindsets, reduce reliance on forest resources and illegal activities, and increase food and financial security in the area.
As well as providing start-up loans, offering advice on agricultural practices and donating livestock, BCFS have trained and employed ex-hunters to patrol the forest and collect snares. Since 2004 the number of snares found on average each day has dropped from 45 to 7, and that’s with a growing workforce!
The Budongo Forest is the largest intact forest habitat in East Africa. It is full of life and a home for thousands of threatened species.
Our Head of Conservation and Science Programmes Dr Helen Senn shares her first impression of the camp from a visit in 2019:
“It was a long five hour car journey to get to the Budongo Forest from Entebbe Airport. We arrived just as dusk was settling on the ’Royal Mile‘- the long avenue through the forest that leads to the camp.
As soon as I stepped out of the car, I was hit by a wall of animal sounds in the cooling night air. The solid thrum of cicadas forming a backdrop to a symphony of squawks, howls, tweets, trills and screeches. NATURE IS HERE! Whether it's black and white colobus monkeys bouncing through camp, baboons squabbling over their patch, hornbills flapping up into the mango trees and of course a chimpanzee sloping along the edge of the forest - something is always going on and someone is talking about it.”
The challenges from lockdowns, loss of revenue and travel restrictions in 2020 will take time to overcome, and infrastructure developments are putting pressure on natural resources across the country. There is much work still to be done, but by continuing to develop research and science communication, including informing policy and integrating conservation actions, there is also much cause for hope.
RZSS supporters and visitors to Edinburgh Zoo and Highland Wildlife Park have a critical role to play in our partnership with BCFS. This year, players of People’s Postcode Lottery helped to continue providing financial support for this project and many more through one of our charity’s most challenging periods and we are so grateful. Find out more about BCFS at budongo.org