The Budongo Conservation Field Station (formerly the Budongo Forest Project) was set up in 1990 by Vernon Reynolds in the Budongo Forest Reserve, Uganda. It acts as a base for a wide variety of research and conservation activities; for lots of background info and details of how to make research applications then check out the BCFS website here.
Our camp, and home, within the forest is located in the old Sonso Sawmill site, once the scene of one of the largest sawmills in East Africa. Much of the mahogany and ironwood (Cynometra alexandri) exported to Europe in the 50’s and 60’s came out of Budongo Forest – in fact the floor of the Royal Festival Hall in London is Budongo ironwood! 40 years of intensive logging, and the continuation of illegal logging in the reserve, means that today few of the huge old growth trees are left to us; however, we do have a large population of Ficus most of which produce lots of juicy figs once or twice a year making for a very happy population of around 500 chimpanzees.
Our Sonso community currently contains around 77 individuals, however we rarely see anywhere near this number of them together. They normally travel in smaller parties from a single family unit (a mother and her dependant children) up to larger parties of 20 or 30 individuals. These groups are in a constant state of flux and come together, split up and reorganise on a daily, or even hourly basis. Known for this reason as a ‘fission-fusion’ society, chimpanzee life has a complex social hierarchy with a strict order of male dominance (the alpha at the top, and the others ranked in order below him) and a slightly more open system of female dominance below that. None of these positions are fixed though and the constant political manoeuvring, the formation of new alliances, the hostile take-overs and sexual scandals, make for the hugely entertaining and colourful stories which we are lucky enough to get to observe on a daily basis.
We felt it was pretty selfish to have this much fun without sharing a little of it with the rest of you and so this blog was born in order to let everyone else get to know and love these wonderful characters as much as we do!
In the following pages we’ve put a little info on the chimps themselves and some of the projects that are going on at the moment but we’re new to this so if there’s anything you want to know, or feel we’ve left out then please let us know!