As regular Diary of a Muzungu readers will know, conservation brought me to Uganda. I continue to support a number of conservation organisations including the Uganda Conservation Foundation (UCF), Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), NatureUganda, Conservation Through Public Health, Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Trust and WWF. I’m always happy to support conservation projects in Uganda, indeed across East Africa. In Kenya, I’m a big fan of the innovative conservation and community projects developed by the Watamu Marine Association. I’ve also written about the work of The Gorilla Organization and RDB in Rwanda.
I recently bumped into conservationist Constantino Tessarin, Chairman of the Association for the Conservation of Bugoma Forest, and realised it was about time I wrote about the Bugoma Forest project. You may have read about it in the newspaper. Here’s some background information about the project and details on how you can get involved.
Where is Bugoma Forest? And why is it important?
Bugoma Central Forest Reserve is 410 sq km of Protected Area, comprising a stretch of forest measuring 40 km. In terms of biodiversity importance, Bugoma was rated number 12 out of 65 Ugandan forests surveyed. Bugoma is the largest remaining block of forest along the Albertine Rift Valley between Budongo (Murchison Falls Conservation Area) in the North and the Semliki Reserve to the South.
267 species of trees, 18 mammals and 278 butterflies have been recorded in Bugoma Forest. Primates are abundant, with a population of 580 chimpanzees; however, these primates are endangered as their migratory wildlife corridors between Bugoma and Budongo are disappearing. Bugoma Forest has a large number of black and white Colobus monkeys, Ugandan Mangabey, Red-tailed monkeys (Nagawa’s totem!) and Blue monkeys. The Ugandan mangabey is only believed to be present in Bugoma, as it has become extinct in other forests in the region. Bugoma is also home to a small population of forest elephants, golden cats and side-striped jackals. The forest is a birding sanctuary, with 221 birds species recorded. Bugoma forest is therefore a big potential tourist destination on the Rift Valley circuit, yet one of Uganda’s forgotten treasures.
Introducing the Association for the Conservation of Bugoma Forest
The aim of the Association for the Conservation of Bugoma Forest (ACBF) is to conserve Bugoma Forest and the chimpanzees in Hoima District by changing the current trend of deforestation in both protected forest and private land. ACBF was established in 2014.
Since 2016 in particular, there has been rampant escalation in illegal logging of hardwood timber (Mahogany), illegal cattle grazing (which has lead to burning extensions of forest for pasture) and huge encroachment into the protected areas for agriculture.
Bugoma Forest came into the media spotlight last year when a sugar investor (Hoima Sugar Works) started to clear part of the forest to make way for a sugarcane plantation, claiming that it had received the land title from Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom. Fortunately, the intervention of the Ugandan government blocked that plan.
What is the Chimp T-RAP Project?
Earlier this year, ACBF launched its first private patrol to help National Forest Authority in monitoring and curbing illegal activities in Bugoma Forest. Through the Chimp T-RAP Project, a team of five people are paid by the Association to provide regular patrols, and therefore intelligence, which is already bringing positive results in reducing illegal activities in the forest.
The Association is also fully committed to give legal support to these and any other people working in conservation who face violent intimidation by the illegal logger community.
Another ongoing ACBF project is the public nursery bed in Kabwoya, Hoima District. ACBF provides seedlings of indigenous and tropical trees to institutions and farmers who are interested in signing up to extend their tree cover for the purpose of agroforestry and protection of water sources.