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Budongo Forest

Budongo forest is part of the Murchison Falls Conservation Area and ecosystem and it covers 793 sq kilometers in size, of which only 53% is forested and the rest is grassland. It has an average altitude of 900 – 1000 meters. Budongo is important for its high biodiversity, counting 24 species of mammals, of which 9 are primates; 464 species of plants, 359 birds species, 289 species of butterflies. The most relevant feature of Budongo is the presence of chimpanzees, about 600 from the survey carried out in 2002 by Jane Goodall Institute. Since the 1990s three groups of chimpanzees were studied by researchers; these are Kaniyo Pabidi, Sonso and Busingiro.

Budongo forests has a long history of problematic relations between the forest authorities and the population of farmers and hunters. Commercial hunting has always affected the forest and one of the negative impacts of this is the use of snares or jaw traps made from wire by hunters. Chimpanzees and other monkeys have reported many injuries due to this use. Researchers in Budongo and Kibale reported that about 25% of chimpanzees had snare-related injuries. Another impact of the human pressure over the forest is the change in the original habitat, by replacing the traditional figs trees (whose fruits are good for the chimpanzees) with fast growing commercial trees like eucaliptus, more useful for fire wood and for timber, however reducing the food opportunities for the primates.

The National Forestry Authority in cooperation with Jane Goodall Institute has undertook several projects for sensitization of the local communities over the importance of protecting the forest and safeguard the life of the chimpanzees. The best achievement was the introduction of the eco-tourist site, where tourists can access one of the best “chimpanzee trekking” activities in Uganda, which generate direct incomes from the forest. Moreover, other tourist activities and a lodge were opened, a clear signal that the forest can have a positive impact on the livelihood of the people.