The Bulindi Survivors
Olive and infants
This is Olive and her two infants. They are three of the 19 Bulindi survivors, a group of chimps whose lives are in peril everyday. Through no fault of their own, their forests and the fruits these chimps need to survive have been cut down, one tree at a time, as local farmers have converted forest to farmland. The problem stems from explosive population growth in a region of Uganda where poverty is rampant and the average age of the population is 15.
The Bulindi survivors are very different than chimps that researchers study in well-protected national parks. But, they are like many of Africa’s remaining chimps, the estimated two-thirds that live in areas outside of national parks or other protected areas. Here, they must deal directly with local humans and adapt their lives to survive.
Western Uganda’s Population Explosion on Forests and Wildlife
One rural Ugandan district grew from 100,000 people in 1980 to 350,000 by 2002, and to almost 550,000 by 2012. The demand for wood for fuel and housing has been tremendous, and has driven the near total loss of unprotected forest.
Chimps in national parks typically live in groups of 40 to 100, but in agricultural areas, smaller groups are the norm. This is because some chimps have been killed by locals, and because forests are so small and fragmented that they can no longer sustain normal-sized communities. Researchers like Dr. McLennan tell us that, nevertheless, chimps are finding ingenious ways of coping with their new challenges – stories we will hear in his “Updates From The Field” postings.
These chimps are among about 300 that are living in a 50 km corridor, mostly privately-owned, that lies between two “forest reserves.” The remaining forests in that corridor are on lands that are privately-owned, and many land-owners are harvesting their forests to help cover education costs or just to feed their families, or to try to make some money by growing cash-crops like rice and tobacco.
The Bulindi Survivors are among several hundred chimps surviving in an area that lies in between two protected “forest reserves” (outlined in red; Budongo to the north and Bugoma to the south). This image from 2002 shows the remaining unprotected forests in green, many of which have since been inundated.
Chimpanzees are being killed by local people despite the fact that the law protects them as endangered animals. People are alarmed by the close proximity of the chimps and the loss of their crops, and thus, chimps are dying in mantraps, by poisoning, and by assault with guns or arrows.
Laws also prohibit the cutting of forest within 50 meters of the rivers and watersheds. If maintained, such a strip of land would allow the Bulindi survivors and other chimps to survive. Unfortunately, those laws currently are poorly or not-at-all enforced.
Solutions are possible. First and foremost, these chimpanzees need an internet community of people who are willing to use the internet to advocate for them. Become a part of that by visiting ChimpSaver for frequent updates and participating in actions on behalf of the chimps.
Next, Meet the Males.