Category Archives: information dissemination

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’s story nominated for a Film Festival Award!

I have been off for a while. I congratulate Andrew and Lucy for a job well done. They kept you updated with the on-going ITFC research and other activities through a continued flow of blogs.

Here is an update of what has happened during my absentia. Some of you must have already watched/heard about it. I am talking about the ‘Badru’s story’……….

Sometime last year, Benjamin Drummond and Sara Joy Steele visited Bwindi. Benj and Sara are a documentary team ( that specializes in multimedia stories about people, nature and climate. During their visit, they followed Badru and his team through the rugged terrain of park, capturing every detail of the camera trap setting, tree measurement and climate station maintenance procedures.  A product of their trip was a short movie documenting the TEAM Network’s activities in Bwindi.

The approximately six-minute movie titled ‘Badru’s story’ starring ITFC and TEAM Network’s very own Badru Mugerwa can be watched in HD for free on line This is the first in a three-part series that are yet to be produced. The movie also featured Dr. Douglas Sheil (ITFC, CIFOR and Southern Cross University), Raymond Kato and Job Nahabwe (Uganda Wildlife Authority) and ITFC field assistants (Lawrence Tumuhagirwe and Avetino Nkwasibwe).

The great news is that ‘Badru’s story’ was nominated for the 40th Telluride Film Festival Award. This is very exciting to Badru,, ITFC, UWA and the TEAM Network.  We hope the movie wins the award. Fingers crossed!!!

Below I present to you some of the highlights from the movie  ‘a pictorial movie trailer’. Please enjoy.

The ITFC/UWA/TEAM Network camera trapping team in Bwindi. From left to right: Avetino, Badru, Lawrence (ITFC) and Job (UWA). Standing at the back is Moses (local guide).

The ITFC/UWA/TEAM Network camera trapping team in Bwindi. From left to right: Avetino, Badru, Lawrence (ITFC) and Job (UWA). Standing at the back is Moses (local guide).

On all four:  Badru doing a 'walk test' in front of a camera trap during camera trap setting

On all four: Badru imitates a walking animal by doing a ‘walk test’ in front of a camera trap during camera trap setting.

Measuring a ‘problem tree’: Badru demonstrating how to take diameter measurements of a buttressed tree.

Measuring a ‘problem tree’: Badru demonstrating how to take diameter measurements of a buttressed tree.

Uuhm,  Bwindi’s  beautiful rugged landscape covered by the early morning mist

Bwindi’s beautiful rugged landscape covered by the early morning mist


How would we ever live without Bwindi? Ecosystem services along the boundary of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.

 Ecosystem services along the boundary of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.





Conservation Throught Poverty Alleviation Interim Workshop

This week we are updating you on the Darwin Initiative and DFID (Department for International Development, UK) – funded Conservation Through Poverty Alleviation (CTPA) project. Last Tuesday (12th March), ITFC hosted various partners of the CTPA project and Integrated Conservation and Development (ICD) practitioners for the Interim Research Workshop, which aimed to update them all on the project’s progression, as well as debut the new database tool, one of the legacies of this project.

Dr. Michelle Wieland introducing the research users database (Photo by Andrew Kirkby)

Dr. Michelle Wieland introducing the research users database (photo by Andrew Kirkby)

ITFC welcomed Dr Julia Baker all the way from the UK, as well as other partners and ICD stakeholder organisations, including key organisations such as Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), the Bwindi-Mgahinga Conservation Trust (BMCT), IGCP (International Gorilla Conservation Programme) and ACODE (Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment). The packed schedule for this interactive workshop kicked-off bright and early, starting with a series of short presentations on the key findings so far. The day also included cohort discussions, question and answer sessions and group-work based on the main topics from the presentations. There was also a demonstration of the new database tool on ‘Wellbeing and Livelihood Needs of Resource Users around Bwindi’, which was developed through this project in order to help inform ICD practitioners about the ‘who & why’ of resource use – to understand the people behind the numbers, and uncover peoples’ motivations behind unauthorised resource use and bush meat hunting.

Group work session

Group work session (photo by Andrew Kirkby)

Stephen Asuma telling us about the forgotten stakeholders around Bwindi

Stephen Asuma telling us about the forgotten stakeholders around Bwindi (photo by Andrew Kirkby)


All in all, it was a great day; the workshop ran smoothly and everyone had a great time, getting thoroughly involved, contributing to discussions and voicing their opinions. Group-work sessions were particularly fruitful, producing diverse and abundant outputs to the focus questions, and fulfilling the aim of encouraging dialogue and collaboration between ICD stakeholder organisations. There was even a great media output (in the form of a radio broadcast and a newspaper article), thanks to Arans Tabaruka, a journalist for KBS radio & the Daily Monitor. The other aims, including debuting the database and updating everyone on the research were also fulfilled, and everyone was complimentary of the project. UWA’s Chief Warden for Bwindi & Mgahinga was particularly pleased with the day and grateful for the research, particularly the database tool that promises to help improve future ICD schemes around the park, helping improve community livelihoods and wellbeing, park – community relations and conservation success!


Dr. Robert Bitariho leading the discussion on the future of the resource user database

Dr. Robert Bitariho leading the discussion on the future of the resource user database (photo by Andrew Kirkby)

We’ll be back soon with more news from ITFC.


Lucy & Andrew

Uncovering the Mysteries of ArcGIS with Andrew

Starting on Friday the 8th March, Andrew (Kirkby) started a highly anticipated series of GIS training sessions for ITFC staff. Running over the weekend and into this week, Andrew helped people get to grips with ArcGIS (9.3 version), a crucial yet complicated tool for conservation and research.

Everyone listening attentively!

Everyone listening attentively! (Photo by Lucy Sangster)

After taking a GIS course during his undergraduate degree, Andrew worked hard to get to grips with GIS, improving his skills with the programme, which he has since used for multiple research projects and working for conservation organisations.

Many of the staff at ITFC need to do mapping for their respective projects and they mostly use ArcGIS, however many have not had any formal training for the programme, or found their trainings were lacking components. Some level of training is essential for this highly complex, yet valuable, programme in order to be able to accurately develop maps and use the programme to its full potential.

Andrew demonstrating aspects of the programme

Andrew demonstrating aspects of the programme (photo by Lucy Sangster)

Sitting comfortably in the ITFC common area with laptops and notebooks at the ready, Frederick (Research officer), Robert Bithario (Ag. Director), Badru (TEAM coordinator), Medard (Social research project leader), Kato Raymond (UWA warden of research in Bwindi), and myself, opened our ears. Starting with a lecture, Andrew gave a run-down of the background, basic skills and use of GIS and then on Saturday we started on a series of practicals using ArcGIS 9.3. The practicals covered the basics of importing information (GPS points, for example), building your map, as well as various other essential skills covering a number of specific areas that staff had queries about, such as geo-referencing images, troubleshooting with coordinate system problems, building quarries, creating formal maps, then to more difficult aspects such as special statistics . Despite a lack of computers with the GIS programme, Andrew got the practicals going, with people taking turns executing different tasks, with the computer projected onto a screen. Everyone enjoyed the course and came away feeling much more comfortable with ArcGIS, with a much better understanding. With the intricacies of ArcGIS uncovered, mapping is now a much less scary prospect!


Practical session

Practical session (Photo by Lucy Sangster)

Keep an eye out for next weeks blog about the CTPA workshop.


Bwindi Mountain gorillas at 400

The results for the fourth Bwindi Mountain gorilla census were announced yesterday by the Uganda Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife, and Antiquities and the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA). It is now official that Bwindi is a home to 400 gorillas, close to half of the world’s population that is estimated at 880 individuals. This result has taken a staggering twenty months of intensive gorilla search, counting and genetic analysis. Pictures generously provided by Theresa Laverty, MPI-EVA research assistant.

Rukina from the Kyagurilo research group, Bwindi-Ruhija

Conducted by the Uganda Wildlife Authority, the 2011 Bwindi Mountain gorilla census was an effort of a big collaboration involving many organizations that work in Mountain gorilla conservation including; l’Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature (ICCN), the Rwanda Development Board, International Gorilla Conservation Programme, the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (MPI-EVA), the Institute of Tropical Forest Conservation, Conservation Through Public Health, the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project, and the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International. WWF-Sweden funded the census with more support from Berggorilla & Regenwald Direkthilfe e.V., the Wildlife Conservation Society, and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.

Earlier today, I had a privilege to chat with the director of the Bwindi Mountain gorilla project, Dr. Martha Robbins. Ladies and gentlemen, lets hear from the horse’s mouth (the lead scientist) for the 2011 Bwindi Mountain gorilla census. Please find the details of our Q&A chat in BM and MR below:

BM: Thanks a lot Martha for allowing talking to me after a very short notice.

MR: Sure


BM: May you please tell our readers what Mountain gorillas are? What makes them different from other primates, and great apes in general?

MR: The Mountain gorillas are one of the two and four gorilla species and sub-species respectively. They have many differences compared to chimpanzees and Bonobos. Their bodies are much bigger…actually they are the biggest apes.


BM: Bwindi is a home to 400 Mountain gorillas, close to half of the World’s population. This is the highest number of gorillas ever recorded in Bwindi. Why the big difference in numbers compared to the previous census?

MR: We count gorillas using the sweep method, where teams intensively walk through the forest in a dense network of trails searching for gorillas. Analyzing for the genetic make-up (genetic analysis) of feces allows us to differentiate if the gorilla groups encountered during the sweeps are the same or different. Genetic analysis creates a genetic identification for every gorilla that we find feces from, and this helps us not to over or under count the gorillas.

One limitation of the single sweep means that we can only count or do genetic analysis on the gorillas we find. The assumption that we find all the gorillas in a single sweep is not necessarily accurate. This time around we did two sweeps, meaning that there are some groups we found only during the 1st sweep and some groups only during the 2nd sweep. Genetic analysis was later done for both sweeps. This is the only way that we can know for sure that the groups from both sweeps are the same or different.


BM: What does this result mean to the conservation world, and mountain gorilla conservation in particular.

MR: This result means several things. First of all, the Mountain gorillas are the only sub-species of the great ape where we see the population actually increasing, and that provides some hope for conservation not only for the Mountain gorillas but of other endangered great apes and other primates. The increase and the hope that this population is sustainable depends only on the continuation of extremely intensive conservation efforts both inside the park and also with the neighboring communities living outside the park, Uganda as a country and in terms of international support at all levels.


BM: Any additional remarks for our readers?

MR: Lastly I want to say that the end result from a census is one number so it may seem easy to determine, but the censuses are only possible through a very big collaboration among many organizations, involving many individuals. Some where between 80-100 people were involved in last census.  These censuses are a way to really bring together all organizations that work in Mountain gorilla conservation, and this one has resulted in some very good news about how all the efforts of all these organizations are paying off. I thank all the organizations mentioned above for their efforts that made this census a great success.

Kanywani and Twijykye of the Kyagurilo group, Bwindi-Ruhija

Best regards,

Badru Mugerwa

International workshop and celebrating 21 years of research and training for conservation



Last week ITFC and the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA, the managers of Uganda’s National Parks) jointly hosted our annual ‘Information Sharing Workshop’, this time in Mbarara. 65 Participants from Uganda, Rwanda and Congo came to represent the students, hosts, partners and collaborators we work with. This workshop was a closing event for ITFC’s 3 year grant from the MacArthur Foundation. The timing coincided with UWA’s efforts to develop a new 10 year management plan for the Bwindi and Mgahinga Conservation Area and the workshop provided a good venue to discuss some difficult and pressing issues.


Attentive audience

Participants were treated to a packed two-day program of presentations and discussions. UWA staff laid out their challenges, ITFC students and staff presented overviews of our work while other representatives of conservation and community development organisations shared their experiences, views and plans.The audience fired off questions and comments and kept us all on our toes.


Break-out group discussing community surveys

One real value of these meetings is for the students and researchers to be able to place their work in the bigger picture and see how managers and others respond to conclusions and recommendations. Importantly too, these workshops are an opportunity to discuss management challenges with a diverse group of experts and practitioners. UWA led the Day 1 discussions, focusing on a) the problem of Mountain Gorillas increasingly roaming outside of the park, b) managing resource use by communities, c) assessing communities’ knowledge, attitude and behaviour towards the parks and d) monitoring wildlife in the park. On Day 2, the same groups decided on what capacity is required in all these fields, within UWA, NGOs and universities and what should be done to develop it.

At the end of it all we had a small party. The University Vice Chancellor shared a few words and then we ate, danced and celebrated ITFC’s 21st birthday: coming of age!

Miriam and Douglas

MUST and ITFC hold Collaboration and Research Opportunities Workshop

On Wednesday Feb. 8th, ITFC held a workshop at our mother institute Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST).

Over 35 participants from medicine, psychology, physics, biology, computer science and many other disciplines convened at Acacia Hotel in Mbarara to take part in the collaborative workshop hosted by the Faculty of Science and ITFC. The morning opened with a welcome from Dr. Julius Lejju, the Associate Dean, Faculty of Science.
Dr. Julius expressed his appreciation that ITFC had taken the initiative to reach-out to fellow university units, presenting its work and various collaboration opportunities. He then invited the ITFC Director, Dr. Douglas Sheil to present an overview about ITFC and its programs.

Douglas giving an overview of ITFC

Douglas giving an overview of ITFC

The workshop was also graced with the presence of the Deputy Vice Chancellor, Dr. Pamela Mbabazi. In her remarks, she emphasized the need to take up the goldmine of opportunities availed by ITFC for the university, more especially because of its strategic location. She went on encouraging each department to devise a way of developing a synergy for collaboration with ITFC. “I would like to see a real action plan for this purpose. For some reason we seem to accept ITFC as a part of MUST but we seem so far apart. Let’s take on this opportunity now” She urged.

The D.Vice Chancellor and ITFC Director having a chat during the coffee break

The D.Vice Chancellor and some of the ITFC staff having a chat during the coffee break

Three other ITFC researches gave presentations before we broke out into discussion groups. Each group was tasked to find practical solutions to the question: “ How can collaboration between ITFC and our department be strengthened?”

Group discussions (1)

Group discussions (1)

Group discussions (2)

Group discussions (2)

Group discussions (3)
                                            Group Discussions (3)

What came out from the discussions were numerous approaches for strengthening the relationship and how each department can seize the opportunities at ITFC; by for example writing joint grant proposals, having regular field visits by MUST staff and students to ITFC, including field courses in the curriculum of university programs so that students have a hands-on field experience. Already the Faculty of Medicine is planning to send a number of students to be based at ITFC for their community practice later this year. On February 15th, the Faculty of Development studies is sending a delegation to ITFC, and a two weeks after a group from the Institute of Computer Science shall visit ITFC.

Dr. Nkurunungi JB presenting his group's deliberations

Dr. Nkurunungi J.B. presenting his group's deliberations

Perhaps most importantly, it was clear that all participants really want to get this going.

A group photo of the participants

A group photo of the participants

Special appreciation to all the MUST staff and participants who saw to it that the workshop was a success.


New Website on Africa’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites Launched

A new website about Africa’s World Heritage sites has just been launched.

This website contains information about some of the most spectacular natural places on Earth, as well as our most precious cultural heritage. From the pyramids of Egypt to the snows of Kilimanjaro, this website takes you to the heart of the continent, with the help of an unrivaled collection of some 4,000 stunning photographs, together with maps and information on each of Africa’s world heritage sites.
Our very own, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is included in the prime pages(

Publications and brochures related to the various  sites may also be downloaded rom the website.

With such a wealth of information provided, awareness about the conservation of these properties is hopefully enhanced.

Have you had the opportunity to visit a World Heritage Site? How do you view their conservation status?
Let us hear your thoughts.



Our forest candid-camera network gets global attention

As regular readers know several of our activities here in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park are part of, and contribute to, larger research networks. The TEAM network supports our camera trapping, our tree monitoring plots and our automatic climate station. These TEAM activities are all still quite new at ITFC so we should celebrate when we can see our network getting recognition for its value to conservation and science.

A recent mult-author publication about the TEAM cameras has been getting a lot of media coverage. Rather than repeating it let me give you a few links so you can see the pictures and text for yourselves. There are some familiar images as well as many from other forests around the world. So here is a brief selection from several hundred sites that appear to be running the story: National Geographic, Wired Science and IBTimes.

Take a look and please feel free to share your views.

Best wishes


Bwindi’s Teachers Receive Environmental Education Training

Conflicts and disagreements between park managers (UWA) and the neighboring communities have existed ever since the gazetting of Bwindi Impenetrable National park. This is partly attributed to the limited local awareness of the forest’s environmental and conservation value. Environmental education offers one solution.

The environment and how to protect it has to be a central part of education and school curricula. For this reason,  ITFC invited the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI) who have a lot of experience with this in the region, to conduct environmental education training for primary school teachers near Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.  It was just last week that we finally hosted a four-day workshop at our Conservation Education Center. We had 28 local teachers participating.  The training was facilitated by three Canadian volunteers under the supervision of JGI’s Education Officer Aidan Asekenye.

Twenty Eight teachers from around Bwindi during the EE training

Twenty eight teachers came from around Bwindi to attend the EE training

The main aim of the workshop was to prepare the teachers to become champions for environmental conservation within their schools and wider communities. Teachers were also equipped with methods of infusing environmental education in the curricula of four primary school subjects (of Maths, English, Social studies and Science).

After taking a guided forest walk in Bwindi and later through the nearby community, teachers were asked to raise  the key environmental issues and also suggest solutions to these issues. Among the challenges identified were poor waste disposal, declining water quality, poor farming methods, and a high human population density as a threat to the conservation of Bwindi.

Through a series of interactive discussions, the teachers were helped to come up with practical solutions  not only to these issues but also to the other global environmental challenges like global warming, wildlife habitat loss,etc. Each teacher was given an opportunity to illustrate how best they could articulate these solutions into their daily lesson planning without necessarily teaching environmental education as an independent subject. After each presentation the audience were invited to suggest improvements to the proposed lesson plan, e.g. how could it be made more engaging and hands-on?

The workshop ended with each participant receiving a Teachers’ Guide Environmental Education information pack and a certificate of attendance.  They also received an evaluation questionnaire which they shall post back after six months to document what they believe they have accomplished as a result of the training.

A group photo of the participants and some of their facilitators

A group photo of the participants and some of their facilitators

If we can raise the funding, we hope we can extend these activities to more schools and communities. We hope that the communities and park authorities will work more closely because they agree that Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and their mountain gorillas should have a long-term future.  That’s our vision.  That’s what we work for.