The Nkuringo buffer zone is a 12kms long and 350m wide transition area between cultivated area (community) and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. This was aimed at reducing the human-gorilla conflict. This transition zone was established in 2005 and runs along the Southern boundary of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park on Kashasha River, Kisoro district, Southwestern Uganda.
The Nkuringo buffer zone is accessible along the Kisoro-Nteko road, 38kms about 2 hours’ drive from Ntungamo Trading Centre. The buffer zone was established following the human-gorilla conflict, which became a major challenge in mountain gorilla conservation and protection in and around Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
Location and Access
The Nkuringo Buffer Zone lies along the Southern boundary of BINP (Kashasha River) in Kisoro District, South-Western Uganda. It lies between latitude 0o53’ and 1o8’ South and Longitude 29o35’ and 29o50’ East (Figure 2). It is found in Nteko and Rubuguri Parishes of Nyabwishenya and Kirundo Sub-Counties respectively, Bufumbira County, Kisoro District. The Nkuringo buffer zone can be accessed via the Kisoro- Nteko road (approximately 38kms), approximately 2hours to Ntungamo trading centre near UWA offices. At this point you descend through a non motorable rugged terrain that is characterized by very steep slopes from the Rubuguri-Nteko main road up to the buffer zone boundary of the outer subzone.
Previously Nkuringo gorilla family group and other wildlife could spend 60% of their time on the community land. As a result, they damaged crops or even injured human beings yet also, their contact with humans meant a high risk of them getting infected with human infectious diseases. In response to this problem, the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), with support from the International Gorilla Conservation Program (IGCP) and other Development Partners, purchased land (later to be known as Nkuringo Buffer zone) along the edge of BINP, where the gorillas ranged most. The Nkuringo Buffer Zone borders the Kashasha River along the southern boundary of BINP in south-western Uganda, and covers an area measuring approximately 12km by 350m.
The buffer zone covers an area of 12kms by 350m of area and this was also sub-divided into 2; the 12kms by 150 and 12kms by 200. The Nkuringo buffer zone is strategically located and on a 2-3 hours’ walk; visitors have the best of bird watching and in-depth learning about the different farming activities carried out in the local communities.
The buffer zone was sub-zoned into two: the inner sub-zone measuring about 12km by 200m owned by UWA and an outer sub-zone measuring about 12km by 150m jointly owned by NCCDF and UWA.
The buffer zone was designed based on the programs to be achieved and they included among others;
- Mountain gorilla protection
- Improving local community livelihood
- Stakeholder participation
- Continuous management of Mauritius thorn hedge
- Reducing the problem and vermin incidences
How is the Nkuringo Buffer Zone Important
Human–Gorilla conflict has been a serious challenge to the protection of the endangered mountain gorillas in and around Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. The high population density within Nkuringo also makes it a serious challenge. On several occassions, the mountain gorillas and other wild animals in the Nkuringo Sector come into human settlements destroying the local people’s gardens and livestock! At times the wildlife has been reported of causing injury to human beings. The contact between humans and gorillas increases the risk of contracting diseases.
Habitat for the critically endangered Mountain gorillas and other wildlife
From the time the buffer zone was established, many faunal species have since inhabited the zone. The buffer zone is habitat for baboons, several species of monkeys, bush pigs, duikers and most importantly the endangered Mountain gorillas. The formation of the buffer zone has also boosted the floral diversity. The buffer zone especially the inner sub zone is supporting a very diverse plant community with associated economic and ecological benefits. For example, the diverse plant community is providing an enormous food source on which the faunal populations depend, thereby enhancing biodiversity conservation.
Nkuringo Buffer zone is found in the lower valleys of BINP and follows the meandering river Kashasha. The inner subzone of the buffer zone and the surrounding Bwindi Forest are characterized by beautiful riverine forests punctuated by grassland patches which, all in all form an attractive view to the eye. The growing of tea in the outer zone will itself form a green beautiful landscape in the valleys surrounded by steep hills in addition to the various activities of tea harvesting. The early morning and evening mist with cold breeze sweeping across Bwindi forest is a favourite for the video recording or film makers and photographers.