Protecting Chimpanzees in Uganda
By Paul Ndiho
June 1, 2011
The population of Africa has grown exponentially over the past century, and United Nations figures indicate that Africa’s population is likely to double by 2050. This growth can take a big toll on wildlife, and chimpanzees are no exception. Founded in 1977, the Jane Goodall Institute is a global leader in the effort to protect chimpanzees and their habitats. It is widely recognized for establishing innovative community-centered conservation and development programs in Africa. At one point, chimpanzees lived in 25 African countries. Due to the loss of habitat, chimpanzees are now found in 21 African countries. In Uganda, the Jane Goodall Institute, or JGI, is conducting extensive chimpanzee conservation awareness campaigns in communities surrounding the forest. Veterinarian Peter Apell runs the program.
“So the Jane Goodall Institute is focusing on trying to protect the chimps in their habitat and also to make the population much more aware on how they can live sustainably with these endangered species.”
Mr. Apell says chimps are threatened in Africa because the people often cut down forests to make way for crops, and forests are critical habitat for chimpanzees. He says that chimpanzees also are accidentally trapped:
“Chimps have been incidental victims of traps that have been laid by the communities. The traps have not been laid specifically for catching the chimps, but for catching wild pigs and other bush meat to supplement the protein diet of the communities that live adjacent to the forest. But unfortunately chimpanzees are also caught in these traps.”
With a grant from the U.S. government, JGI has developed an ecotourism site in Budongo Forest Reserve that promotes and provides alternative livelihoods for rural communities.
“The thing about this ecotourism site is that it employs people from the local communities. We trained them, we employed them, so they are earning a living directly from the ecotourism site. But the revenue that is generated from tourists coming to this ecotourism site is then put back towards three main activities.”
Peter Apell says that Chimpanzees are closest species to humans and protecting them is at the heart of Jane Goodall’s historic legacy.
“Chimpanzees have a hierarchy in their communities. They have a leader who is an alpha male who oversees all the functions within the communities. They live in groups in communities in families, they pretty much communicate both vocally and using signs.”
Mr. Apell says that this year, the Jane Goodall Institute in Uganda was nominated by the World Tourism Council for an award that recognizes innovative approaches for sustainable tourism and conservation.