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Saving chimpanzee using culture

Barbara Babweteera, the executive director of CCFU says using culture to safeguard Uganda’s chimpanzees and working together with private forest owners, the Uganda Wildlife Authority and the youth is important. She says there is a big disconnect between young people and their respective cultures and nature. 

Babweteera said the project aims at triggering discussion on appropriate chimpanzee conservation interventions and the use of cultural and community resources within and beyond the conservation sector.

“These experiences show that on the one hand, communities and private forest owners in Bunyoro and Rwenzori regions draw on their cultural attachment to conserve nature by protecting private forests as sources of traditional knowledge, traditional medicine and food, and as sources of spirituality and hosts of totemic animals.”

The CCFU says after recognising the need for collective efforts and responsibility, KICHIDA is now opening membership to other clans. Julius Kaganda, the Association chairperson, says information on conservation and protection of the chimpanzee needs to be passed onto next generations to be sustained.

But Aliguma Ahabyona, the programmes manager at CCFU says he and other elders are saddened the youth are cutting forest trees for timber to sell, buy motorbikes for bodaboda business, and leave the villages.

Yet CCFU targets the youth. It says in a programme brief on the project that “working with women, as cultural and conservation agents, may prove to be an effective way to nurture a sense of responsibility in the youth.”

New strategies

Going forward, Owoyesigire said UWA has come up with strategies to ensure that chimpanzees remain safe and secure. For a start, the national conservation agency is moving away from its initial, more militaristic approach. Instead it is employing strategies that create community awareness and participation. Communities are shown how they benefit from UWA’s conservation interventions.

The legal and policy provisions are also being reviewed to ensure that UWA sustainably manages wildlife populations in and outside protected areas.

“The Wildlife Act 2019 provides for the protection of wildlife species. Section 35 says we are supposed to generate economic benefits from wildlife conservation for the people of Uganda.”

“The policy has come up with deterrent penalties for criminals who touch the chimpanzees and other wildlife,” he says, “When you kill a chimpanzee or we find you with its little one, we ask you to find its mother and if you fail to, we produce you in court, we charge and convict you.”

“You are liable to a fine not exceeding one million currency points (Shs 20bn) or to life imprisonment or both.”

Owoyesigire added that the government is working with the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida) and the World Bank to restore habitats of chimpanzees in the so-called chimpanzee belt which runs along the Albertine rift, starting from Pakwach, in northwestern Uganda down to southwestern Uganda.

“Bunyoro still has viable forest patches and we will continue working with the cultural institutions, private forest owners, community based agencies to agree on the needed interventions.”

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