History of Budongo
The BCFS was founded by Professor Vernon Reynolds in 1990. At that time it was called the Budongo Forest Project. Prof. Reynolds had first studied chimpanzees in the Budongo Forest in 1962 and written a book about the forest and its chimpanzees (Reynolds 1965).
During the 1970s and 1980s two major civil wars raged in Uganda, with a complete breakdown of law and order across the country. In 1988 Prof. Reynolds read a report in the New Vision, the main Ugandan newspaper, to the effect that chimpanzee infants were being captured in Budongo Forest, taken to Entebbe airport, and smuggled out to wealthy pet-owners in Dubai and other places. After a year seeking funds he returned to Uganda in March 1990 and, together with Chris Bakuneeta, who had recently obtained an MSc in Forestry at Makerere University, established a base at Budongo from which to discover whether there were still chimpanzees in the forest.
The result was positive. The Jane Goodall Institute made some initial funding available to Prof. Reynolds and this provided a salary for Chris and additional funds to employ six Trail Cutters to make a grid of trails in the forest, and six Field Assistants to go into the forest each day, find chimpanzees, and attempt to follow them, taking care to win their confidence and not alarm them. In those early days the chimpanzees were terrified of human beings and it was a long, slow process to habituate them. By 1995 however, the number of chimpanzees we had recognised and named had peaked at 50, and it remained stable at that figure until 2000 when, largely as a result of immigration, it started to rise again.
In 1991 Dr Andrew Plumptre joined the Budongo Forest Project as Co-director. Andy made a series of studies of the forest and its wildlife, many of which have subsequently been published. Funding for the project from 1991-1997 came from the ODA's Forestry Research Programme. In 1997 our funding source switched to NORAD, which was supporting forestry in Uganda through Makerere University. At the same time Dr Fred Babweteera (D.Phil Oxon) took over as Director of BFP.
From 1991 the project's field site in the middle of the Budongo Forest started to take shape. The main houses we now occupy were initially built for the managers of the Budongo Sawmills Ltd, but the sawmill site was abandoned during the collapse of Uganda under Idi Amin and we were able to obtain two derelict houses. Renovation work was done during 1992 under the supervision of Dr Jake Reynolds with a team of six local builders. As a result we had two fine houses by the end of that year. The team also built 12 units of staff accommodation, new kitchens, washing and toilet facilities. All this work provided a fine base for staff and students, of whom we had an increasing number, to enter the forest along our trail system and make observations and studies of the forest and its wildlife. Our publications list began to grow and has continued to do so each year.
From 2005, our core funding has been provided by RZSS at Edinburgh Zoo, which continues to support us at the present time. We also receive funding from a variety of other sources (see Home page). Also in 2005 Prof. Klaus Zuberbuhler took over as our Scientific Director, with a particular focus on studies of primates. In 2007, largely thanks to the hard work of Dr Babweteera, the Budongo Forest Project achieved the status of a Ugandan NGO and was re-named the Budongo Conservation Field Station. Today, in addition to research, BCFS makes a considerable contribution to the life of the surrounding community in terms of conservation education and help for local schools, assistance towards secondary and higher education for staff children, support for small business initiatives, provision of veterinary services for livestock, and close liaison with local Government authorities. We are trying to conserve the Budongo Forest and its wildlife, notably the chimpanzees, from the many threats to its trees and its boundaries. We welcome researchers, students and volunteers from within Uganda and universities worldwide. From small beginnings, BCFS has achieved an international reputation as a centre of excellence for research and conservation in Uganda. This has not been achieved by any one individual but by the combined efforts of a very large number, working cooperatively together over the years since 1990.
- About BCFS
- About Budongo
- History of Budongo
- Where is Budongo
- Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
- Documents and guidelines
Highlights from 2017
February 08, 2018
Powering the forest walk with a Rolex
December 24, 2017
Reducing the threat of snares in the Budongo Forest
July 08, 2016
Using forest research to inform chimpanzee conservation in Budongo
May 26, 2016
Providing alternative livelihoods to forest dependent communities
April 15, 2016