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Several studies have been conducted in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park to establish the existence of human wildlife conflicts. Historically, local communities have used Bwindi forest as a source of timber, minerals, non-timber forest resources, game meat and agricultural land. These activities led to continued significant losses of forest cover up to the late 1980s. Since 1991, the forest’s tourism potential (mainly gorilla tourism) has been demonstrated as an -important additional direct economic value.

According to Weber & Vedder (1983, cited in Macfie 2000), the reduction in lower altitude forests reduced the gorillas’ home ranges significantly. Further, Butynski (1984; cited by Macfie 2000) indicated that the presence of some mosaic forest patches left outside the park boundaries, coupled with the growing of new crops palatable to gorillas, like bananas, favoured the retention of the areas within gorillas’ home ranges.

The result was that there was spatial overlap of human activities and gorilla home ranges outside the park boundaries, and the gorillas destroyed peoples’ crops, stopping people from working in their gardens and at times inflicting injury to the people: thus the human-gorilla conflict.

It was only after the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) started earning money from gorilla tourism that the communities started demanding compensation for the losses incurred due to gorilla crop raiding (Macfie 2000). Attempts were made to minimise the conflict by giving a token of appreciation to the farmers who did not harm the gorillas during crop raiding, but these failed because of gross abuse of the procedures; besides, it was found to be unsustainable and also contravened the UWA policy of compensation.

Why HuGo?

It was envisaged that the collapse of the compensation scheme was likely to have some negative impacts on the conservation of the critically endangered mountain gorillas, among them notably the following: there would be long-term negative community attitudes towards conservation of mountain gorillas, and also perhaps increased possibilities of transmission of communicable diseases from humans.
In February 1998, a workshop of key stakeholders to discuss the problems came up with several solutions, including:

  • a) education,
  • b) chasing,
  • c) problem animal levy (levy on gorilla permits),
  • d) hiring gorilla monitor response teams,
  • e) development of a policy by UWA on problem gorillas,
  • f) land purchase on the forest edges.

Solutions a, b, d and f have since been piloted in Uganda. The HuGo aims to increase the level of community support for gorilla conservation by monitoring gorilla group movements, and responding whenever gorillas move out of the park boundaries.

When HuGo?

The implementation of the February 1998 workshop recommendations in Uganda began in September 1998 (Macfie 2000). Gorilla Monitoring and Response Teams (GMRTs), which follow gorillas whenever they range outside park boundaries and gently chase them out of fields and out of harm’s way, were formed in Mukono and Nteko parishes with the primary aim of chasing gorillas whenever they would roam out of the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (BINP).

The chasing was not very successful in Nteko because the Nkuringo gorilla group was under habituation and there were many wild groups. A decision was consequently reached to buy the park edge land in Nteko, the Nkuringo buffer zone. Education has been an ongoing activity since September 1998.