Chimpanzees, once thriving in the green forests of Kagadi District in the great Bunyoro region, now face an existential threat as human encroachment and habitat destruction push them to the brink of extinction. Despite being classified as vulnerable or critically endangered species globally, the chimpanzee population in Kagadi continues to suffer from rampant migration and fatalities.

The destruction of their habitats, such as the Ruzaire forest reserve, replaced with exotic trees like eucalyptus and pine, and the conversion of Kamiranjojo wetlands, has intensified human-wildlife conflicts. Poaching further exacerbates their plight, leading to a grim reality where the once abundant chimpanzees are now dwindling in numbers.

Recent years have witnessed escalating confrontations between chimpanzees and humans, with tragic outcomes. Reports of attacks on children, such as the incidents in November 2019 and December 2022, underscore the desperation of these intelligent creatures fighting for their shrinking territory.

The Friends of Chimpanzees organization, based in Katyobona forest, once safeguarded a population of 60 chimpanzees. Today, that number has plummeted to a mere 18, highlighting the urgent need for conservation efforts.
Swaleh Kuteesa Kadoma, the executive director of Friends of Chimpanzees, expresses deep concern over this alarming decline, emphasizing the critical role of conservationists in preserving these vanishing voices of the wild.

As the sun sets on Kagadi, the future of its chimpanzee inhabitants hangs in the balance, a poignant reminder of the delicate equilibrium between human progress and the preservation of our planet’s precious biodiversity.

However, Kadoma attribute the decline of chimpanzees in great Bunyoro to competition of space as they migrate from safe places, poaching and climate change.
He added that people behaviors has changed and chimpanzees are killed and eaten, and bury the evidence.

He cited a case in Kyamajaka cell in Muhoro a chimpanzees was killed and eaten and evidence was buried.

“Some people kill chimpanzees for various factors, meat, others take their parts for racials but as friends of Chimpanzees we believe in conserving and protecting chimpanzee in good way for blessings” Kadoma said
We are concerned about their lives and that is why we plead for help to support us in the conservation and track them where they are and safe guard them.

He mentioned that another worrying factor, male chimpanzees are many than female chimpanzee, and we think this may be major cause of their migration as they migrate to female counterparts.

Additionally Kadoma said that as climate change fragments and degrades habitats for human and chimpanzees, the two start encountering each other for food and resources hence causing conflicts with locals and children.

“ We have been monitoring chimpanzees for decades and we know how they behave, ways of life, what they eat and when chimpanzees is sick that is why we have embarked on planting on the various fruit bearing indigenous trees as to mitigate on the conflict on food” Kadoma explain.

Climate effects on Wildlife
Climate change  is causing influence on wildlife worldwide, With the rising temperatures, shifting weather patterns, and changing habitats, many species are facing unprecedented challenges to their survival. According to climate change expects, the ramifications of climate change on wildlife are extensive and intricate, affecting various aspects, from migration for food availability and reproductive success.

Among the most significant impacts of climate change on wildlife is loss and destruction of habitats.
As the heat waves heat the global, increasing temperatures and alterations in precipitation patterns are reshaping eco system surrounding great Bunyoro region in Kagadi District, resulting in the degradation of crucial habitats for chimpanzees.

According to Kadoma, as these habitats diminished or vanished entirely, the wildlife populations must adapt or face extinction risk, something he says worries him as conservationist.

Experts have consistently emphasized the impact of climate change on wildlife food sources. For instance, increasing temperatures and precipitation influence the timing of plant growth, thereby affecting the availability of fruits, nuts which are main food stuff for species like chimpanzees. This disruption cascades throughout the food chain, affecting predator’s relian on these herbivores for sustenance.

As habitats evolve and species adapt, competition for resources intensifies, sometimes leading to conflicts between previously coexisting species.
Kadoma explains that alteration in predator- prey dynamics disturb eco systems, resulting in population declines or extinctions.

He emphasizes that climate change is impacting the availability and distribution of the fruits, leaves and other plant parts essential for chimpanzees ‘diet. This, he stresses, leads to disturbance in their feeding patterns and nutritional intakes due to alteration in fruiting season or plant species abundance, potentially resulting in malnutrition and diminished reproductive success.

Community in conservation efforts
The escalating population growth and subsequent encroachment on wildlife habitats have heightened human-wildlife conflicts, pushing species like chimpanzees in great Bunyoro towards extinction.

Among the six districts in the Bunyoro sub-region experiencing significant population growth, Kagadi district stands out. Located approximately 95 kilometers southwest of Hoima, the largest town in the sub-region, Kagadi has seen its population surge from 13,568 in 2002 to an estimated 20,600 in 2011, according to the National Population Census.

Despite the challenges, community-driven conservation initiatives are gaining momentum. Civic society organizations like the Bulindi Chimpanzees Community Project acknowledge the prevailing negative community practices and attitudes towards conservation. However, concerted efforts are underway to reverse this trend, necessitating greater support to achieve the desired impact.

Moses Ssemahunge, the director of the Bulindi Chimpanzees Community Project, reflects on the past perception of conservation areas solely as business ventures, which hindered mobilization against illegal activities like poaching and deforestation. However, collaborative community sensitization efforts, led by organizations such as Friends of Chimpanzees and Uganda Wildlife Authority, have fostered a deeper appreciation for the benefits of preserving apes and wildlife among local communities.

Despite these strides, challenges persist. Swaleh Kuteesa Kadoma, the executive director of Friends of Chimpanzees, laments the lack of support from Kagadi district for their conservation efforts. Even the tourism officer has approached them seeking assistance, highlighting the disconnect between conservation organizations and local authorities.

As the community becomes increasingly engaged in conservation endeavors, there is hope that Kagadi district will recognize the intrinsic value of preserving its natural heritage, ensuring a harmonious coexistence between humans and wildlife for generations to come.

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