Earlier this year journalist and presenter Asha Tanna travelled to Budongo to learn more about the problems caused by the snares set by hunters in the Budongo forest. These snares are intended to catch small antelope known as duiker, but tragically also trap many other animals including our Sonso chimpanzees resulting in devastating permanent injuries and in some cases death. BCFS has instigated a number of conservation projects, including employing ex-hunters in a snare-removal team (read more about the great work they do here), and an education program within the local communities. Recently a new initiative has been started to provide hunters with goats which they can then raise and breed in order to provide an alternative source of meat and income in exchange for no longer hunting in the forest. It’s early days but so far the project has gone from strength to strength and the number of snares and snare injuries seems to be dropping. See Asha’s great video about her visit here, and see if you can spot a few familiar faces (Karo, Zig, Night and Nambi to name a few..)!

James Kakura

November 18, 2010

James (center) on the BCFS lake trip

 

We’re are deeply sorry to announce the death of our field assistant and friend James Kakura. James had been with the project since its earliest days, and while the loss of his rich knowledge of the forest is irreplaceable, it is his quiet presence and easy smile that will be deeply missed by all who were fortunate enough to know him. A fisherman in his youth, we all knew of his enduring passion for all things fish, and we’re sure he will rest in peace now close to his family home on Lake Albert. We will miss him dearly.

Sorry about the break in the news folks but it’s been a busy busy summer here at BCFS, in July we hosted Jane Goodall and a CBS news team who came to film in Budongo Forest as part of the celebrations for the 50th anniversary of chimpanzee research at Gombe. Schedules were tight, but Jane took the time to talk to the members of staff and students who came from all around the forest for the visit.

The field assistants looking sharp in their uniforms for a special visitor

Then, in August, we celebrated our own big anniversary – 20 years of BCFS! Attendees included people from all walks of life and from all corners of the globe – the huge event was kicked off by a serious workshop that covered both a review of the work the project has achieved so far, and an insight into the new work that is going on as the project goes from strength to strength (check out our current projects page here for an idea of what the researchers are getting up to at the moment). Chimpanzee behaviour and health monitoring, forest conservation issues, education and training projects – BCFS is now involved in a huge variety of projects and having everyone together gave us a great opportunity to discuss the exciting plans for the future, including a National Chimpanzee Veterinary Center – lets see what happens in the next 20-years!

After the workshop came the serious buisiness – cue the sound system, light the fires and grab a beer, it’s party time! and the 150 expected guests soon doubled in number as the word spread. The music was loud, the dancing was lively and the food and beers were plentiful, all the ingredients for a classic Budongo party.

 

Hello, sorry for the lack of news recently, BCFS has been a busy place with the Great Ape Health Workshop coming together at the end of August. A great success with close to 100 participants it generated indepth discussions on everything from the prevention of ape-human disease transmission to the control of out-breaks. One of the major successes of the workshop was the instigation of a nation wide health monitoring program that will be based on the BCFS program. This will run in conjunction with an Africa-wide comparison of study sites looking at aspects such as the effect of human presence on parasite or bacterial loads and immunities. 

 

There was plenty of activity in the chimp community too – after a successful start to the year with new births and immigrations we sadly lost Bwoba and then Zimba’s new baby boy. Things seemed to settle for a while but after being absent for a few weeks Juliet one of our youngest adult females returned to great commotion. She had brought with her her first baby, a tiny boy only 1-2weeks old. The initial joy at this new arrival quickly turned to horror as we watched Nick (our alpha) and Musa rush over and start to display and then chase Juliet through the trees. Her screams brought many of the other communities members rushing over, some (including most of the other adult males) seemed to try and defend her but Nick finally succeeded in driving mother and baby down to the ground where he started to attack them. She was desperately trying to shelter the baby under her but in a moment’s lull Nora rushed over and grabbed the baby from her arms. This is not the first time Nora has tried this with a new infant, she tried and failed to take Kigere’s new baby when she arrived at the start of the year, and has recently taken to carrying many of the older babies around. She is almost at the age to have her own babies and we’d credited much of this behaviour down to a sort of broodiness. Tragically in this case she attacked the young infant – biting it in the neck. Once Nick realised that Juliet no longer had the baby he left her alone and rushed to take it from Nora; they then both started to cannibalize the body. Juliet ran away, and the baby’s dead body was passed through the community with many of the younger ones carrying or playing with it. Sally kept trying to build tiny nests and put the body in them, almost like a doll. 

 

Incidents like this show us how much further we have to go in our understanding of chimpanzee behaviour. We managed to recover the body several days later and will try and establish the paternity. Did Nick attack because it was another Sonso male who had fathered the infant? Or a male from another community? Was there another reason entirely? In other incidents where a strange or rare female has returned with a new baby it was the adult females who have attacked her and the males who defended her. There are so many complex social factors involved in a case like this we a long way from going beyond a few simple hypotheses – however further investigation of this case and careful monitoring of any new ones may lead us over time to build up a more complete picture.

Civet pups!

June 1, 2009

We are lucky enough at Sonso to have a resident African Civet – these rare and  extremely shy creatures belong to their own family and look something like a cross between a large cat and a mongoose. Nocturnal carnivores they are usually seen in the late evening, and are easily recognized by their strikingly beautiful black and white markings. 

The three young civets already show the characteristic markings of their species

The three young civets already show the characteristic markings of their species at a few days old

Over the past couple of years we have seen more and more of an adult female who regularly hunts in the area around camp – a few days ago as we were crossing the sawmill clearing early in the morning one of our field assistants heard an odd mewling sound and to our delight discovered our resident female with three tiny babies. Tucked safely away in the long grass they were only just beginning to open their eyes, though that didn’t stop them from wriggling around all over the place and exploring their new surroundings. They are much darker that their mother, but already show the faint signs of the wonderful combinations of spots and stripes that makes the adult Civets so distinctive. We stopped quickly to take a little footage of this rare event and then left them quietly in peace.
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