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Chimpanzees of Kyambura Gorge

As Brilliant Uganda describes, the Kyambura Gorge is a beautiful sunken forest located at the heart of the Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda. The Kyambura Gorge is home to incredibly diverse wildlife such as hippos, antelopes, elephants, hyenas, and numerous species of birds. Big game and primates can indeed be found in abundance in Queen Elizabeth National Park. Leopards can be found roaming the Mweya Peninsula, and hippos and Nile crocodiles can be found in the Kazinga Channel. Kyambura Gorge and the missing chimps are found within this unique area.

Kyambura Gorge Queen Elizabeth Park (Explore Rwanda Tours).

The Issue

Among the wildlife is a group of around 22 chimpanzees, who are currently known as the “Lost Chimpanzees.” These chimpanzees have been isolated from the rest of their species and completely cut off from the rest of the forest in Queen Elizabeth National Park as a result of the deforestation and expansion of communities. This isolation is leaving them on the brink of extinction. Without the ability to return to the rest of their society, the chimpanzees cannot mate and grow the population of their species. Females have been unable to visit neighbouring chimp communities to mate, resulting in an increase in human-chimp conflict.

Photo is courtesy of Travel and Leisure.

The people who live in the vicinity of Kyambura Gorge use firewood as a way to fuel their stoves and rely on subsistence farming, requiring fertile land to grow their crops. They cut down trees in this area to supplement their household income as timber gives them around $160 per year. Unfortunately, these actions have an environmental cost. As explained by Travel and Leisure, deforestation and community encroachment have trapped Kyambura’s endangered apes in their jungle habitat over the last two decades.

What is Being Done

Volcanoes Safaris, an organization and travel company located in Uganda, has launched the Kyambura Gorge Eco-tourism Project, a series of community and conservation activities to safeguard the Kyambura Gorge ecosystem. This initiative is focused on connecting the Kyambura Gorge to the local community and promoting sustainable tourism through various educational and community engagement activities, such as bee training, the establishment of a nursery and a reforestation project, building a community playground, and starting a training program at a community café, just to name a few.

The Kyambura Gorge Safari Lodge will contribute to the preservation of the isolated chimp population and the establishment of a buffer zone between the Gorge and the surrounding communities. Only (approximately) 22 chimps remain in the isolated troop that lives there, according to research funded by Volcanoes Safaris, which is around half of what it was 20 years ago. The Volcanoes Kyambura Gorge Ecotourism Partnership is a major long-term Kyambura Gorge eco-tourism partnership project that will connect the eco-lodge being built to the community, promote chimp conservation, and create a buffer zone to help protect the Gorge.

Photo is courtesy of Volcanoes Safaris.

Volcanoes Safaris is working diligently to find a way to reunite these lost chimps with another chimp family to guarantee their long-term survival. Unfortunately, due to deforestation across Africa, many chimps face the same tragic fate as these chimps. Chimpanzees are one of our nearest living relations. The heartbreaking irony is that no matter how inextricably bound we are to these magnificent creatures, our behaviours are the primary cause they are vulnerable and on the verge of extinction. We must act now, before it is too late, to better protect our close relatives and their natural environment.

What We Can Do

There isn’t anything particular we can do to aid these chimpanzees directly, but there are numerous other endangered animals in many countries that need our help. The Kyambura chimps aren’t the only ones. One of my favourite ways that I’ve found to help is the World WildLife website that has many petitions and ways you can support their cause and the endangered animals they are fighting to protect.

If you’re unfamiliar with this organization, World WildLife aims to preserve the natural resources on which local populations depend, turn economies and policies for sustainability, and protect and restore animals and their ecosystems. Our activities ensure that the importance of nature is expressed in decision-making at all levels, from the local to the national. You can read more about WWF and their impact here and donate here to help them protect different endangered animals.

Here are a few other organizations determined to protect the extinction of animals in different countries around the world, where you can donate to as well:

1. The Jane Goodall Institute: https://www.janegoodall.org/make-a-difference/

“The Jane Goodall Institute (JGI) is a global community conservation organization founded by Dr. Goodall in 1977. By protecting chimpanzees and inspiring action to conserve the natural world we all share, we improve the lives of people, animals and the environment... The Jane Goodall Institute Global’s mission is to support wildlife research, education and conservation. JGIG promotes informed and compassionate action to improve the environment shared by all Earth’s living creatures.”

2. International Animal Rescue: https://www.internationalanimalrescue.org

“At International Animal Rescue we not only save animals from suffering, we also rehabilitate and release them back into the wild and work to protect their precious natural habitats. Our work includes cutting free and caring for captive bears in India and Armenia, rescuing and rehabilitating orangutans and other primates in Indonesia and treating injured and orphaned howler monkeys in Costa Rica. Our aim is to return animals to their natural environment wherever possible, but we also provide a permanent home for those that can no longer fend for themselves.”

3. International Rhino Foundation: https://rhinos.org/our-work/where-we-work/

IRF’s mission is “to ensure the survival of rhinos through strategic partnerships, targeted protection, and scientifically sound interventions.”.

“IRF’s current major programs include: 1) Indonesia: Rhino Protection Units, the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary, and the Javan Rhino Study and Conservation Area; 2) India: Indian Rhino Vision 2020; 3) Zimbabwe: Lowveld Rhino Conservation Program; and 4) Southern Africa: Operation Stop Poaching Now. IRF also supports scientific research, providing grants for work that is directly applicable to management, propagation, and conservation of rhino species in nature and in breeding centers.”

4. Wildlife Conservation Society: https://www.wcs.org/

“WCS's goal is to conserve the world's largest wild places in 14 priority regions, home to more than 50% of the world's biodiversity.”

“The challenges are greater than ever, but with the focus, dedication, and passion of a committed staff—combined with a unique mixture of field, zoo, and aquarium expertise—WCS will continue to set the bar for science, conservation action, and education that has driven our success in protecting wildlife and wild places for over a century. We hold ourselves to the highest standards, adhering to core values of respect, accountability and transparency, innovation, diversity and inclusion, collaboration, and integrity.”

Article Author: Alizeh Qaiser

Article Editors: Valerie Shirobokov, Victoria Huang