Highlights from 2017

February 08, 2018

Welcome to 2018, we thought we would start the New Year by sharing the highlights of the previous year 2017. It was quite an eventful year and kudos to the field team, the researchers, our generous donors and all that make a contribution to the tremendous work Budongo Conservation Field Station does. We were honoured to continue using the knowledge from research in informing our conservation initiatives whilst making a positive impact on the communities at the forest edge and around Budongo Forest. We specifically would like to acknowledge our key donors RZSS, Oakland zoo, Earthwatch and ARCUS Foundation.

RZSS Chief Executive Officer visits Budongo

The Chief Executive Officer of RZSS, Barbara Smith, visited Budongo in October and her presence graced BCFS staff and the Budongo community at large. Her maiden trip to Budongo coincided with BCFS' annual Board of Directors' meeting where she serves as a Board Member alongside RZSS' Head of Conservation and Science, Sarah Robinson. Together with the Chairman Board of Director's (BCFS), Barbara signed a Memorandum of Understanding between BCFS and RZSS. This marked a major milestone for the two organisations given that RZSS has been a generous core donor for BCFS for over ten years. In addition, Barbara visited local schools and communities to get a firsthand experience of BCFS' conservation activities. She also interacted with researchers at BCFS and crowned her visit with an address to the staff members. Her words of encouragement thrilled and motivated the staff. There is no doubt that RZSS is not just a donor to BCFS but a core partner in the research, training and conservation work.

BCFS Recognised by Budongo Sub-county Local Government

We were delighted to have been recognised by the Budongo Sub-county Local Government for the contribution BCFS makes towards the development of communities and the conservation of the environment around Budongo. Mr. Geoffrey Muhanguzi (Field Station Manager, BCFS) received the award on behalf of BCFS from Mr. Kenneth Nyendwoha the Chairman, Budongo Sub- County Local Government.

BCFS Conservation Coordinator wins TWAS award

Dr. Caroline Asiimwe (Conservation Coordinator, BCFS) was named the first winner of the prestigious TWAS Samira Omar Innovation for Sustainability prize. She was honoured for her contribution towards conserving wildlife in the Budongo area whilst engaging local communities through conservation education. Given her role, she also works with communities to reduce their dependence on forest resources and directs interventions to rescue trapped chimpanzees and other animals that suffer from human induced injuries among many other activities.

Earthwatch volunteers in Budongo

2017 was a good year and the bar was held high as we hosted five Earthwatch volunteer sessions. A total of 34 volunteers visited and took part in the various activities BCFS engages in. Each of the sessions spanned over 12 days. The sessions were fun, interactive, educative and eventful as volunteer researchers participated in monitoring tree phenology, diversity of birds, primate foraging behavior and community livelihood interventions. The sessions also availed an opportunity for the volunteers to see chimpanzees go about their daily routine in their natural habitat. For the team at BCFS it was a pleasure! We learnt quite a lot from the diverse teams and personalities therein with whom we were happy to share our experiences. We acknowledge Earthwatch Institute for the continued support in many these field visits and many other associated activities in research possible.

Census of mammals and associated illegal activities in Budongo forest

With the generous funding from ARCUS Foundation, we successfully conducted a large mammal and illegal survey in Budongo Forest. For a period of five months, 22 membersof the BCFS field team comprising a number of field assistants and other staff working in groups of two, were taken through rigorous training sessions in survey protocols and methods. They often camped in the forest, opening up and traversingthe preselected transect lines to take record of mammals (primates and angulates) and illegal activities sightings in Budongo forest. Some of the lines used for this census were off the grid and they complemented the already existing lines covering a total distance of 460km. Analysis of primate populations is still ongoing. However, a reduction in encounter rates of illegal activities (hunting and logging) from 2.64 activities/kilometer in 2009 to 2.16 in 2017 was recorded. In addition we observed an increase in sightings of the hunted species (Blue and Red Duikers) from 0.04 animals/km in 2009 to 0.16 animals/km. The final census report will be available later in the year.

Long term research takes on more dimensions

Onithology studies are now contributing to our long term research data base that informs our understanding of ecosystem diversity and changes over time. We started collecting bird assemblage data in February 2017, together with the first team of volunteers from Earthwatch Institute. We initially had one field assistant, but we eventually trained two more. Unfortunately, we lost the main bird field assistant Kenned Andama (R.I.P), who succumbed to cancer. The two trained field assistants have now remained instrumental in the data collection. We have so far managed to conduct bird surveys using mist nests in five out of six phenology data collection compartments, representing different forest management histories, and hence differences in forest structure. A total of 1669 birds, representing 45 bird species have been captured using the mist nests, recorded and categorized according to their habitat and feeding guilds. As expected, forest specialists and terrestrial insectivores accounted for the highest proportion of birds in all the compartments sampled. Most of the birds captured were also understorey bird species which forage in the forest undergrowth, and therefore the low records of the main frugivorous birds as most of them feed in the higher canopy. These should be recorded when we start using the point count method, which is more appropriate for sampling the upper canopy birds. One of the interesting species captured was the Black eared Ground Thrush, Zoothera Cameronensis, a poorly known understorey forest specie which was last recorded in Budongo Forest more than a decade ago (Lindsell, 2002). This was recorded in N15, the same compartment in which the first nests and eggs of this species were observed in 2000 (Lindsell, 2002).

“Killing two birds with one stone” when we treated the domestic animals

BCFS in partnership with the Budongo Sub- county Local Government and Masindi District Local government routinely set out to treat and/or immunise animals (livestock, poultry and pets) in number of villages neighbouring Budongo Forest Reserve. This practice that is now part of our routine at BCFS has advantanges that are two dimensional. Treatment of domestic animals and birds helps control the spread of zoonotic diseases whilst improving productivity among household herds. And since many community members gather during treatment sessions, it is also an opportunity to for us educate the communities about the need to conserve their environment and the good practices in livestock management for higher productivity. 2795 livestock heads, 1050 poultry birds, 246 dogs and 18 cats were treated and/or vaccinated in the past year benefiting over 600 households around Budongo.

The Training Centre

BCFS has finalised its plans to establish a well equipped multipurpose training facility that will among others serve the following purposes: Provide field training facilities for local and foreign tertiary institutions. This will include university and other tertiary student classes undertaking modules as part of their core curriculum; Provide short stay facilities for lower and higher secondary school students. This will entail organised local and foreign school groups and/or special interest groups who visit to learn about the research and conservation initiatives in tropical rain forest ecosystems; Provide short courses in contemporary subjects notably: Applied Tropical Forest Ecology and Conservation; Primate Ecology and Behaviour; Biological Field Research Methods; Tropical ornithology; and Wildlife Health Management. These will target graduate students, conservation biology practitioners and other interest groups who are aiming at improving their practical skills in the relevant themes; Retreat facilities for special interest groups such as: University curriculum development teams, Policy makers, Institutional in-house refresher courses, and symposiums. With the plans complete and the intentions well defined, BCFS is now fundraising with an ultimate goal of making this a reality.



History Of Budongo

The BCFS was founded by Dr Vernon Reynolds in 1990. At that time it was called the Budongo Forest Project.

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Where is Budongo

The Budongo Forest is a moist, semi-deciduous tropical rain forest located at the top of the Albertine Rift in Uganda.

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