Category Archives: bwindi experiences

My Bwindi experiance

Today marks my 16th day in Ruhija, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (famously known as ‘Bwindi’). This is the land of the mountain gorillas that am yet to see and cross off my bucket list of 100 things I want to do in life. Just when I thought I had had enough of the Seattle rains and the cold weather, Bwindi sits at an elevation of almost close to 3000 feet, way colder than I had imagined, and feels to me like winter…only this time there’s no snow present. Apparently am told this is the hot/dry weather season…I can only imagine what is in store for the cold season! The dry season I know of in Kenya actually  means drought…the hot sun shining through the open grassland savannas and the strong winds blowing through virtually any vegetation cover spared by the scorching sun. I look around and the place is lush green and full of life with no indication of dry visible…maybe except for the white dust on the roads.

As I write I have actually lost track of dates and days. Everyday feels the same since you cannot tell the difference between a week day and a weekend.  Everyone seems to get the hang of it except me. At least I know it’s Friday today because it’s ‘movie’ night, a tradition that has been practiced at ITFC for God knows how long. Am amazed at the excitement all around, and Badru, the well re-known master DJ is busy setting up all the gear in place.

Well, one thing is for sure…this is a tea drinking zone. With temperatures as cold as this, I have succumbed to taking refuge in the Ugandan tea and the very famous ground nuts to keep me sane. I love the foods here, Valentino Sigirenda; one of the camp-keepers has ensured that I add an extra kilogram because his meals are way too irresistible. He makes the best chapatis and I have fallen victim to his delicious meals, especially the peanut sauce.

The kind of hospitality I have received here is one that I will always appreciate for sure. I have made new sets of friends and have received so much love and support and I trust the next two months will be no different. Am all settled in and ready to start working on a project that I will be assisting with. A simple monitoring tool for local community use in Bwindi’s Multiple use zones. I am excited about the project and hopefully I’ll get to learn a bit of the local language somewhere along the way as I interact with the local community members.

Veryl and friends from a walk

Exploring Bwindi thanks to the new friends.

If they make me love the place, I will hopefully return to pursue my Msc research and hopefully  make new friends with the gorillas 🙂

Veryl

The Forth ITFC/UWA Annual Information Sharing Workshop-A Huge success

Warm greetings from the Institute of Tropical Forest Conservation (ITFC). I take this opportunity to apologize for quite a long silence. Allow me to break this silence with a recent success story from ITFC.

At ITFC, we have a tradition of updating our partners in conservation with research information pertinent to the conservation of Bwindi Mgahinga Conservation Area (BMCA) and other conservation areas. There is no better strategy of achieving this, than  the ITFC/UWA annual information sharing workshops.

This year’s and the forth of such workshops was held at the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park headquarters in Buhoma on Friday, 7th June 2013. The one-day workshop was organized by ITFC in close collaboration with the  Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), managers of the  BMCA. The idea behind these workshops is to bring together stakeholders and partners in conservation and development to review completed and on-going researches, share ideas, and identify current and future management research priorities for the BMCA.

The workshop themed “Research for park management” attracted 33 participants from eight  organizations. The organizations that participated in the workshop included; the UWA, ITFC, the Greater Virunga Transboundary Secretariat (GVTC), CARE-Uganda, Bwindi Mgahinga Conservation Trust (BMCT), International Gorilla Conservation Programme (IGCP), Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (MPI-EVA) and the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project (MGVP Inc.)

During the course of the workshop, twenty oral presentations were made. As the theme dictated, all talks shared results and updates on on-going and completed researches in and around the BMCA, with a special focus on their applicability to park management.  The workshop proceedings will soon be made available on  the ITFC website. Below I share  a pictorial from the workshop. Joseph Arinaitwe (Research and Monitoring Ranger for BMCA) provided all pictures.

Bwindi research and monitoring objectives

Bwindi  research and monitoring objectives presented by the BMCA Conservation Area Manager, Mr. Pontious Ezuma

The forth ITFC/UWA annual Information Sharing Workshop  participant group photo

The forth ITFC/UWA annual Information Sharing Workshop participant group photo

Pontious, Christopher and Robert listening to Teddy from Greater Virunga

Pontious, Christopher and Robert listening to Teddy from GVTC

 

Robert giving an overview of the completed and ongoing ITFC research activities in BMCA

Robert giving an overview of the completed and ongoing ITFC research activities

 

Yours sincerely,

Badru

 

 

 

 

Bwindi’s wild bananas

It’s one of those times of year at ITFC when everyone is busy analyzing and writing up their completed research and we chose this opportunity to talk to Frederick Ssasli about his interesting study conducted on the little known wild banana species (Ensete venticosum) in Bwindi.

The objective of his study  was to investigate the ecology of the wild banana by recording the animals that visited and utilised the plant’s fruit and flowers. Most fruiting plants in Bwindi are seasonal, however these wild bananas are special as they fruit and flower all year round, possibly providing a reliable ‘fall back’ food source for animals. Little is known about wild bananas and even less in Bwindi, so Frederick expected some exciting results.

A convenient site was chosen less than a kilometre from ITFC’s premises. Ten camera traps were set up, each on a different tree, five focusing on the flowers and the rest on the fruit. The study ran from 2011 to 2012 in the months of November to April and has just come to an end. 

Now for the results, what everyone had been waiting for! The most frequent visitors to the fruit included L’hoste monkeys, baboons, squirrels and mice which were viewed feeding on the ripe bananas, or in the L’Hoeste’s case, humorously squabbling over them (as they often do). The flowers’ visitors included some nectarivorous birds in the day and lots of bats (which are yet to be identified to the species level) and mice during the night. Even more interesting was the presence of the predatory two-tailed palm civet (Nandinia binotata) which was captured on several occasions visiting the flowers and in one case with a mouse in its mouth!

Two-spotted palm civet after catching a mouse

Two-spotted palm civet after catching a mouse

Bat on banana flower

Bat on banana flower

L’Hoest’s monkey on banana fruit

This study has set the stage for further research at Bwindi to find out more about these inter-specific relationships and to test the list of hypotheses stimulated by each camera picture. There are also some interesting implications for crop raiding. Could the conservation of wild bananas help in preventing increased crop-raiding incidents by providing an alternative food source in the low fruiting season? Could the wild banana be a new keystone species (a species which has a large effect its environment and that many species rely on)?

We hope to see some interesting papers in the near future!

On a side note this is our (Lucy and Andrew’s) last blog. We hope you enjoyed them!

squirrel on wild banana

squirrel on wild banana

Phenology week at ITFC

This week we joined Frederick Ssali (ITFC’s research officer) and other ITFC research assistants conducting their long-term phenology monitoring project. This programme was borne from a long-term phenology project started in 2004, focusing on gorilla food trees, which itself began after a PhD student conducted phenology studies linked to gorillas in 2000. The data from gorilla-focused studies was limited, so this more general project was started in 2011, thanks to a grant from WCS for Climate Change Studies in Bwindi.

photo by Andrew Kirkby

Photo by Andrew Kirkby

Every month, a team of highly trained field assistants collect data on 52 species of selected trees from plots on three transects. The team’s skilled eyes examine fruit, flowers and leaves using binoculars. Information is collected for both the canopy and the ground, on the number of ripe, unripe and rotten fruit, as well as the number of flower buds and open flowers and the number of new, old, dead and damaged leaves. The observational ability of the field assistants is amazing!

ITFC researcher observing a tree for phenology.

Photo by Andrew Kirkby

This project aims to link plant cues for flowering, fruit and leafing to climate change and plants’ responses to climate change. It is also relevant for agriculture as it can help inform farmers about pollination issues and timing of when to plant crops. Such general forest ecology knowledge is highly important for understanding the forest ecosystem and contributes greatly to other studies in Bwindi. It can, for example, inform about when certain food items as available for particular animals.

fruits and leaves of Olinia rochetiana (photo by Andrew Kirkby)

Fowers of Allophylus abyssinica (both photos by Andrew Kirkby)

 

The first analysis of the data is ongoing and Frederick aims to publish the results this year. Although the funding is coming to an end, the hope is that the value of this project will be recognised so that ITFC receives funding to continue this on a long-term basis.

Photo by Andrew Kirkby

Photo by Andrew Kirkby

Lucy and Andrew

TEAM back from the field

Last week Badru Mugerwa, the Bwindi-TEAM site manager at ITFC, and a group of research assistants, came back from a stint of data collection for TEAM (Tropical Ecology Assessment and Monitoring Network). If you have followed our blogs, you will already know about this as an international network of monitoring; operating in 17 tropical forests around the world.

Badru and team heading to the field site

TEAM has been running for four years in Bwindi and along with the climate stations and camera traps, there are six tree-monitoring plots around the park, containing a staggering 3281 trees at the last count. The recent data collection involved tree monitoring at three of these plots. While recruitment was noted, a number of losses were also apparent – a surprising number of unexplained dead stems were noted in one of the high-altitude plots, thought to be due to a fierce storm. Field work is never without interesting or unexpected events; during the tree monitoring  near Ruhija in December, the team was accompanied by a lone silverback for a day, feeding a mere 20 metres away.

Marking trees for measurements

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the global TEAM network, which was celebrated with the news that they had captured their 1 millionth camera trap image (of a jaguar in Manu National Park, Peru http://news.mongabay.com/2013/0214-hance-camera-trap-million.html). The TEAM network continues to provide high quality, standardised, long term data from tropical forest sites all around the world that is freely available to all. The data from Bwindi has so far been used in two university theses and published in 2 peer-reviewed journals (with a third article currently in review).

Recently TEAM produced a short movie about TEAM in Bwindi, check-out ‘Badru’s staory’! http://bdsjs.com/client/ci/.

 

Lucy & Andrew

The search for Bwindi’s River Otters

As we set off, through the tea plantations, past the abrupt transition to tropical forest (as is often the case around Bwindi), the heavens opened up on us with the force of a true tropical storm. We continued our wet, slippery journey down to the Ishasha river (along with numerous comical slips and disappearances down holes), in the hopes we might find what we were looking for… a picture of an otter!

Frederick looking at the impressive tree ferns

Frederick looking at the impressive tree ferns

Otters have previously been recorded in Bwindi between 1990s and 2000. A social study in 2000 by Andama Edward on the ‘Status and distribution of carnivores in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park’, identified that local people around Bwindi knew of two species of otter, the Clawless otter (Aonyx capensis) and the Spot necked otter (Lutra mavulicollis), however there has yet to be a camera trap photo to confirm this.

Frederick Ssali (ITFC’s research officer) is undertaking a study which aims to camera trap in areas not being done by ITFC’s TEAM project, investigate the ecology of Bwindi’s otters and other aquatic and semi aquatic animals, as well as open up the area to further research. The study, which started in 2001, also plans to use water quality as a factor that could influence the distribution and presence of the different species.

Setting up the camera traps

Setting up the camera traps

So far, the otter team have conducted six camera trapping sessions along the Ihihizo river at the ‘neck’ of Bwindi, but were unlucky and didn’t catch a glimpse of any otters. However, they still found an abundance of wildlife including the African Golden Cat, African Civet, Bush Tailed Porcupine and Yellow Backed Duiker. The team then changed their location to the larger Ishasha river (where we went) and have been camera trapping along its steep banks.

Camera trap picture of an African Golden Cat

Camera trap picture of an African Golden Cat

 

After 10 camera trapping sessions and still no sign of an otter (although an exiting glimpse of a long tailed pangolin), the team plans to move their study site somewhere closer to home (Ruhija).

Let hope that, in the future, we can report that the otters have finally been spotted!

The Ishasha river flowing through Bwindi

The Ishasha river flowing through Bwindi

Andrew & Lucy

Lucy and Andrew’s first blog

Here it goes, our first blog of many at ITFC! Firstly we will introduce ourselves, Andrew Kirkby and Lucy Sangster, both recent graduates from the University of Sussex, majoring in Ecology and Conservation and Biology, respectively. Andrew (British/American), born in Kenya, but has been calling Uganda home since 1996, is here gaining some extra experience before attending an MSc course in Conservation Science at Imperial College London in October. Lucy, of British/Swiss origin and constantly travelling between the two, is interested in wildlife health and conservation, and is also planning to do an MSc later this year. Amongst other things, we will be picking up the ITFC blogs for the next four months and hope to keep you all updated on the recent work going on in and around Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.

Although we have already been here a week and settled in, we will travel back to our journey here and our first impressions…

Lucy starting off the blog outside ITFC accomidation

Lucy starting off the blog outside ITFC accommodation

After meeting up with Badru and his family in the early morning, we left hectic, hazy Kampala for greener horizons, with a few stops along the way. Last time Andrew was in Bwindi was visiting Buhoma in 2003 and we expected a tiny, degraded, winding road from Kabale that would last for at least 5 hours. Although we reached Ruhija in darkness, it only took us about 2 hours and we were surprised by the ease of the journey, half of it through the beautiful forest. We were warned by Clemencia (administrator of ITFC) that ‘cold was serious business at Ruhija’ and to prepare for it, so were not shocked by the brisk fresh air. Expecting a cold bucket shower in cold air and to sleep in our sleeping bags, we were extremely happy to find a jerry can of heated water for showers and nice blankets prepared for us!

We were warmly welcomed the next day by all the staff and given a tour. The research station is situated in-amongst trees, just inside the boundary of the national park. The central offices are clustered together at the top of a hill with the residential buildings hidden around the hillside, with views of the forest. No field research station is without a few troupes of mischievous primates and we were soon visited by a group of L’Hoest’s monkeys raiding the compost bin. We were extremely happy to meet our camp keeper, Valentino, a very friendly guy, who would assist us with boiling water, cooking and washing, which makde us feel extremely privileged!

ITFC offices

Some of the ITFC offices

L'Hoest's Monkey after visiting us

L’Hoest’s monkey after visiting us

 

During the week we decided to explore the surrounding countryside. We started by peeking heads into the nice looking lodges, then proceeded to get lost, looking for a recommended hill-top view-point that we had forgotten the name of. Luckily we bumped into a few local residents and asked for directions to the ‘hill’. They pointed us in the right direction and decided to join us. Although we never made it to the intended destination, we enjoyed many hills, extraordinary views and 3 species of monkey along the forest boundary.

View from the top of Barora Hill

View from the top of Barora Hill

Overall, ITFC seems to be a friendly, fresh, peaceful place to live and work and we look forward to the adventures to come! Watch this space for tales of what research and activities are going on at ITFC!

ITFC has come of age this year!

ITFC is twenty-one years old this year. That is the same age as the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. In recognition of this we contacted ITFC’s Alumni and asked them to write a few words to remember what ITFC was like in the past. We had a good response (though we still welcome more!) and Ivan developed the content into a new section on our website. Take a look at http://itfc.org/history/historical_memories.htm. Here is an edited version of the front page, to give you a flavour.

“As the WWF Regional Representative at the time that ITFC was established, I worked very closely with Professor Kayanja, Tom Butynski and Jonathan Baranga to develop the documentation and institutional arrangements to make ITFC a sustainable part of Uganda’s conservation landscape. It is very satisfying to see that, despite all of the challenges we faced at the beginning, ITFC is thriving and making the contribution to tropical forest conservation that we envisioned… ” Ed Wilson. Read more…

I recall a day I was alone in the forest and ran ‘into wild’ Mountain Gorillas! but I survived to tell the story. And another day (Independence day) I got lost into the night in the forest at the bamboo zone! When I got back at around 21.00 hours …” Aleper Daniel Knox. Read more …

“… amazing thing was that after working to get a search image for reptiles in particular I seemed to stumble over them everywhere. Settling back on the sofa one afternoon I was astounded to see a huge house snake (?) zither out of the window. Then I seemed to bump into chameleons all over the place!” Simon Jennings. Read More..

Leo with trap from Rwanda 1994.jpg

Every researcher and staff member knew and appreciated Leo Beinawabo, head of the junior staff. Here showing a local trap (photo by Tony Cunningham)

“I vividly recall all of us squatting in the bush alongside the (gorilla) group pretending to be fellow (apparently hairless) gorillas to put them at ease with our presence – this, of course, involved pretending to chomp on leaves, and mimic their constant grunts and farts. Glamorous stuff.” John Berry. Read more …

… the Park had become Bwindi Impenetrable N.P. and ITFC was run by Simon Jennings. I think we were the “test case” for the new UWA permit guidelines and had quite a time of it. This time, I invited Prof. Alan Channing who has since written two guides: one to the amphibians of…” Bob Drewes. Read more …

After the long drive from Kampala, with numerous stops en-route to meet / pick up people, supplies and take rest we arrived into Bwindi at dusk. As we entered the forest the Hallelujah Chorus from Händel’s Messiah came on in the Land-cruiser – this was automatically turned up to full volume by Jonathan as the forest seems to erupt with a dusk chorus, Bush-babies started to come out and …” Rob Marchant. Read more …

… one incident where I took a foreign researcher, Bob Drewes, for a walk through the bamboo zone trail as he searched for frogs and reptiles. That day we encountered an elephant on our trail and I remember running off without a warning to Bob who also took off in fright following me. I have never seen such a scared Bob since then, he lost his Vietnam war hat in the process of running. We run for about 20 minutes until we were far away from the elephant and I remember Bob telling me he has never been scared like that in his life. He said he had been in Vietnam but …” Robert Bitariho. Read more …

Back in 1995 Derek Pomeroy from Makerere and Chris Perrins from Oxford University arranged for 25 nest-boxes to be erected in the vicinity of Ruhija. Their aim was to shed light on the breeding biology of a small songbird endemic to the Albertine Rift: the Stripe-breasted Tit. What sets this species apart …”Phil Shaw. Read more …

“Living at ITFC is not just about being at a research station, but living within Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. I had the front room of the student dormitory at Ruhija and while in between field surveys, I was working there one morning. On taking a break to wander outside, my camp keeper walked up to me holding something in his hand. It was a small and beautiful chameleon.” Julia Baker. Read more …

“Twenty years later it may be difficult to imagine how local people felt then about the shift from a Forest Reserve to a National Park – but at least one forest guard was speared – and …:” Tony Cunningham. Read more …

Douglas and Miriam

My wonderful experience with Batwa and their cultural sites in Bwindi

I have spent the last six months reading about the Batwa, camping near their homes, interviewing them, sharing meals and cracking jokes. Yes, you are reading right. Cracking jokes with Batwa. I have enjoyed the company of the Batwa mainly because of their great sense of humour and melodious songs.

Singing inside the Hagurofa Batwa cave in Rushaga

I guess you want to ask, “Batwa? Why spend time with them?” Well, Batwa deserve our attention because they have been marginalized for so long since their eviction from the ancestral home of Bwindi. As a result, they are struggling to cope with the strange way of life outside the forest which they reckon best suits non-Batwa.

Marion helps with interviewing a Mutwa woman inside the forest in Rushaga

Historically, Batwa are hunter-gathers. Their lives depended entirely on forest resources. Their legends, myths and beliefs attest to the strong connection that still exists between the Batwa and the forest. In addition, the many conversations I have had with Batwa have somehow ended up touching aspects of their cultural sites – swamps, hot springs, caves and hills – and plants and animals which were important for their wellbeing in the forest. They have repeatedly told me that they miss the forest. One woman had this to say, “We request you to allow us access to our forest so that we can see the homes of our grandparents.”

But do Batwa cultural sites in Bwindi still exist? The answer is a clear YES. See additional pictures below which were taken during the inspection of Batwa cultural sites in Bwindi by a team from ITFC, UOBDU – a Batwa organisation based in Kisoro – and UWA.

A Mutwa woman washing at the (women-only) hot spring in Kitahurira

A man standing inside a cave – which was open on one side – demonstrates how Batwa used to shoot animals during hunting expeditions

Group of Batwa women in Sanuriro enjoy their moment inside the cave

I will post more stories about Batwa and their culture soon. Watch this space.

Fredrick Ssali.

The impenetrable challenge of an overwhelming understorey

The following is a text I wrote for tthe British Ecological Society Bulletin — that was published last month (June 2012). I wrote it to attract interest to a challenge that requires more attention from ecologists and others.  I hope you find it of interest.

___

Science journals favour tidy theory and rigorous results, but ecological science can also be advanced through highlighting unfamiliar unknowns and quirky questions. For many of us such unknowns are what makes research fun. I want to share a problem (don’t worry, it is about ecology). Maybe you can help.

Our understanding of tropical forest dynamics has advanced considerably over recent decades. We now have vast data-sets tracking hundreds of thousands of tree stems over areas of 50 hectares or more. Numerous processes have been quantified in detail. Remaining unknowns may appear to be minor gaps that will soon be filled. But, for some locations, these impressions are misleading.

For the last few years I have been based in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park – a World Heritage Site in Southwest Uganda. We can see Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo from here. The site is known for supporting half the World’s remaining mountain gorillas; a major “see them before you die”-tourist-draw that brings in significant revenues to support conservation and the region’s economy. I help run a research station that focuses on the needs of local conservation practitioners (see ITFC.org). We have various day-to-day challenges ourselves – of which I may share more another time – but here I want to focus on our inadequate grasp of forest dynamics.

Living in a salad bowl: fewer than 800 mountain gorillas remain (Photograph Douglas Sheil)

What’s in a name

First, consider the name Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. That “Impenetrable” often leads to raised eyebrows, disbelieving laughter and accusations of ill-judged humour. But it is not a joke: “Impenetrable” is there in the official name. Ask why and you reveal you have not yet been here. Bwindi is rugged, steep and divided by cliffs but the key feature is the thick understorey. It is near impossible to walk through. The main element of this understorey challenge, superseding even the impressively rich flora of noxious nettles, barbed briars and spiny Acanthus, is its remarkable density. Understanding this forest by looking at the trees alone is probably harder than walking through it without tripping over the understorey.

Impenetrable forest – where are the seedlings? (Photograph Douglas Sheil)

Let me sketch out a few local features. The climate here is cool with altitudes up to 2,600m (we huddle at the fire at night). Being one degree south of the equator, seasonal variation is limited but we have two wetter and two drier seasons. Much of the forest canopy is open and there are extensive clearings – this likely reflects slow or stalled recovery from past disturbance (human activities, fires, landslides and elephants are all blamed). Small trees are scarce over large areas – suggesting limited regeneration. Many clearings are filled with persistent bracken fern Pteridium aquilinum (L.) Kuhn.reminiscent of the forests near where I grew up in Ireland. Other understorey species dominate other areas both with and without tree cover. Many of the common understorey species are synchronously monocarpic, living for a decade or more before flowering, seeding and dying en masse. . Examples include the African mountain bamboo (Yushania alpina (K. Schum.) Lin. Poaceae). Like many gregarious bamboo species elsewhere, it forms extensive stands and flowers only every few decades. Other monocarpic understorey plants include various Acanthaceae including several Mimulopsis spp.. One thicket forming species is Mimulopsis arborescens C.B. Clarke. It grows to 4 meters tall and bears multiple soft-woody stems with interlocking stilt-roots that are near impossible to walk through – this plant covers large areas of the forest. Along with another common monocarpic Mimulopsis species (M. solmsii Schweinf.) this is among the mountain gorillas’ most plentiful food plants. Both these Mimulopsis species flowered, seeded and died over the last two years.

ITFC researchers work among the woody remains and seedling carpets of the monocarpic liana Sericostachys scandens (Amaranthaceae): note the bamboo in the background (Photograph Douglas Sheil)

A liana that was abundant in Bwindi just three years ago is also monocarpic. Sericostachys scandens Gilg. & Lopr. (Amaranthaceae) used to cover almost every tree over large areas of forest. Then 3 years ago it flowered and for months its fluffy seeds were everywhere. It is now hard to spot a plant aside from seedlings. Large dead crumbling stems lie in heaps in parts of the forest.

So to recap: large areas of the forest are dominated by a dense understorey. Many of these plants are monocarpic and achieve high densities in cycles that must impact the recruitment opportunities of other plants. Trees are locally patchy and seedlings are often rare. The behaviour of the non-tree vegetation appears key in understanding the dynamics of these forests and, by implication, the animal species such as the mountain gorillas that they sustain.

These issues are not simply a matter of curiosity: major concerns have been raised about the long term management of the forest. These are practical questions. What, for example, should be done about the forest’s vulnerability to fire and to alien species (such as Lantana camara L. now spreading in the northern lower part of the forest)? Specific questions have been raised about maintaining conservation values. Recently the park authorities suggested it may be necessary to artificially maintain gorilla food species by cutting trees. We don’t have anything close to the understanding needed to address these concerns with confidence.

Fun fun fun

How can we get a handle on the key relationships within this complex patchy mountain forest vegetation? How can we, in only a few years of affordable research, grasp how outcomes are determined? If we can’t do that can we at least begin to clarify, gather and store the information that future researchers will need to better address these impenetrable problems? We have some plots with a few thousand tagged trees already. We also acknowledge valuable research elsewhere on seedling-understorey interactions, bracken control, and many other key issues. But we’ll need more, including the sustained funding to achieve it. So can we address this in easy bite-sized pieces? Ideally we would support local students and build capacity as we did it. I am hoping you may have suggestions. If you do please let me know, better still drop by and see just how impenetrable the forest here really is.

Left: Bwindi before, and right:, after last year’s understorey die-back (Photographs by Miriam van Heist)

Hope to hear your thoughts.

Douglas