Category Archives: tourism

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

Special visitors to ITFC: cyclists from Johannesburg!

Last weekend, two young South African guys arrived in Ruhija … on bicycles! Alex and Murray have cycled some 6000km now on a tour from Johannesburg to Nairobi that started in early February, an amazing feat! I took the photo below when they left Ruhija again, after two days of walking in the forest, birding along the road and having a good rest. They gave a talk at ITFC too, telling an astonished audience about their epic journey: slides of bicycles on a canoe crossing a small river, or being pushed on a very muddy track alternated those of people they met along the way. They were not just clocking up the kilometers: they hope to raise awareness (and funds!) for water needs along their route and visited many projects that bring water closer to communities. Sponsors pay them by the kilometer or when they reached the equator and already some 5000 U$ was raised.
 
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Alex and Murray, posing in their RFCG T-shirts and about to set off in the direction of Queen Elizabeth National Park
 
And what were some of the lessons they learned about water provision in Africa?
“Providing water for people’s livelihoods is only partly an issue of infrastructure and availability, and culture and education are at least as important factors to take into account for successful water projects”, says Murray. “In Zimbabwe we actually saw some of the most successful examples: systems set up and managed by government, with locally produced pumps and taps that can be repaired in-country, a good management structure. They both feel that here in the SW of Uganda, there is a lot of potential for intelligent capture of rain compared to the much drier areas they passed through.
 
Alex, who is keen on birdwatching, said it had been a childhood dream to come to Bwindi and the Albertine Rift at large, knowing how rich in bird and other species the area is. His contacts with people of the Rare Finch Conservation Group (RFCG, see blog on the search for Shelley’s Crimson Wing, that ITFC hosted last year) resulted in them supporting the cycle tour. The RFCG suggested the team would pay us a visit to see what ITFC is and meet with Benson -who had led the Crimsonwing search. That all worked out!
 
Having seen so many different places and landscapes along their route, I asked them what was special for them about coming to Bwindi and both of them said without hesitation that it was the first place on the tour where they had felt to be in ‘Disney land version of tropical Africa’. Cycling the 13 km through the park, from Ndego gate to Ruhija they already saw l’Hoest monkeys, a black fronted duiker, Great blue turacoes and even a jackal along the road!
 
We wish Alex and Murray good luck and safe travels on the remainder of their journey, which will come to an end in Nairobi, in August.
 
If you want to follow these guys, have a look at the blog/website that they update regularly www.amanziawethu.org.

 
Greetings, Miriam

Experiencing the Batwa trail in Mgahinga National Park

I am just back from a week in Kisoro, a town on the foot of the volcanoes that straddle the border between Uganda and Rwanda. This trip -with colleagues Medard Twinamatsiko and Fredrick Ssali- was a second one in the context of our new ‘Batwa Cultural Values project’ I wrote about in the last blog. ITFC is tasked to work with Batwa communities around Bwindi, Mgahinga and Semliki to understand their forest based culture better and to identify the most important cultural aspects for which access could be negotiated with UWA.

An important activity of this week was to study the 3D models of Bwindi and Mgahinga parks that groups of Batwa created and populated with a wealth of knowledge about the locations of resources and special, important sites to them (see earlier blog). We were particularly interested in finding the locations of sacred sites, hot springs and caves on the models and discussed the meaning of the different categories with people who had been involved in the mapping process. This will be of great help in planning ahead for field visits.

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F.l.t.r.: John, intern UOBDU, Fredrick, Charlotte, Winfred and Medard next to the 3D model of Mgahinga.

To experience a ‘culture based activity’ and hear from Batwa themselves about their lives in the forest, we signed up for the ‘Batwa trail’ which was developed by UWA, IGCP, UOBDU and USAID in the last few years. A UOBDU staff joint us. Let me share the wonderful experience we had in photographs:

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F.l.t.r.: Fredrick, Justus (intern UOBDU), Medard, Mutwa guide, Charlotte (UOBDU), Batwa guides Gad and Steven

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The guides dressed in (goat skin) hides and ranger Benjamin -translator for Rufumbira to Rukiga or English, talking to Fredrick.

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We were shown how a traditional Batwa home (‘Emiririmbo’) in the forest used to look like, inside and out. High up in the tree, children were kept safe from marauding buffaloes.

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Behind a Batwa home, there is always a shrine (Ndaro), where a morning prayer is made to bless the hunting and gathering of the day

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The walk on the lower slopes of the vulcanoes is a treat in itself and gave us a lot of time to talk with the guides

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The famous fire making with sticks that the Batwa are capable of

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With the smoke bees are chased from their hide-out and the honey combs are then collected.

In the Garama cave, the very important former meeting place of the Batwa, we were treated to a welcome dance.

…and there was more in store at the end of the trail!

We highly recommend any visitors to SW Uganda to come and see the forest through the eyes of the Batwa and not only come for gorilla tracking! The website of the Batwa trail describes how to organise this.

Miriam

ITFC starts activities for the Batwa Cultural Values project

ITFC, in partnership with Fauna and Flora International (FFI), Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) and the United Organisation for Batwa Development in Uganda (UOBDU) has started an exciting new project: “Integrating Batwa cultural values into national parks management in Uganda”. The project is funded by the Darwin Initiative, UK.

Medard Twinamatsiko, whom we introduced in the last blog, will guide and manage this project along with Frederick Ssali.  The purpose  is to improve relations between Batwa and park authorities, develop income generating activities and increase the active engagement of Batwa in national park management. When Bwindi, Mgahinga and Semliki National Parks were gazetted in 1991, the Batwa (‘pygmees’) were expelled from their forest home. They have lost their livelihoods and are mostly landless squatters living on borrowed land. Their plight has been taken up by many organisations, but Batwa still live in poverty, diseases are rife and they are looked down upon.

Group of Batwa women and children, south of Bwindi

Uganda is a signatory to the Convention for Biodiversity, which obliges governments to recognise the rights of minorities to maintain their cultural practices when this is compatible with conservation. Many Batwa cherish traditional uses of the forest and continue to use the park and its resources if they can. UWA’s efforts to prevent this through policing are only partially effective and create conflicts that reduce management effectiveness, undermine conservation goals, and raise questions about sustainability.

Batwa value the forests and support forest conservation in the sense that they want the forest protected, but of course they do not support their exclusion for the forest and its management. This project will promote recognition of Batwa values and institutions, engage the Batwa community in park governance, and help retain values, institutions and ethnic identity, all important contributions to their wellbeing.

ITFC’s researcher Bitariho interviewing John Biraara, one of the oldest Batwa still alive. Accompanied on the left by a local councillor and on the right by UOBDU advisor Chris Kidd. The interview took place in preparation of the 3D mapping of Bwindi with the Batwa (first quarter 2010).

ITFC’s role in the project is to assess and document the views and cultural values of the Batwa and to help explore how these can be better integrated with conservation practices. Other partners will focus on strengthening communication between Batwa and the park authorities in order to build understanding and confidence, they will also create incentives for income generating activities by Batwa, develop inclusive park management policy, and provide training.  This builds on the work we had already begun with interviews and mapping.

Miriam

Tracking Mountain gorillas with Jonathan Kingdon and Laura Snook

We joined our friends Jonathan Kingdon and Laura Snook – see previous blog for background – for gorilla tracking to the Bitukura group just recently. It was only the four of us and Stephen from UWA as our guide. The morning was sunny and we did not need to walk far from the Ruhija ranger post. A radio call from the trackers told us that the gorillas were close, but… there were also elephants in the same area. Apparently the gorillas were avoiding them. We had to be careful too as meeting elephants in dense forest is not advised. We had to skirt around the valley and wait.

Before setting off: Raymond Kato (Warden Research), Jonathan Kingdon, Miriam, Laura Snook and Stephen

Finally we got an “all clear” and we moved to the gorilla group. They had been only a couple of hundred meters away. They didn’t react to our arrival other than to glance briefly at us. They were peacefully chewing on dead wood and the usual shoots and leaves. There was no sign of the elephants.

Over the next hour we had a close view of most of the 14 Bitukura gorillas. Sometimes a good look meant hanging precariously on the thick vegetation that covers these steep slopes.

‘Silverback’ watching a Blackback!

Jonathan closely observed every move of the gorillas in view. He recalled that “In those days (the 1960s), when I was surveying and collecting here and in Mgahinga, gorillas had not yet been habituated and you would at most see a glimpse of a large black animal at a distance, hear grunts and chest beats but never had a chance to observe their behaviour close up for more than a moment”. This was a special experience even for a very experienced naturalist!

Happy gorilla trackers and rangers, on their return from Bitukura

Big smiles… after being presented with certificates

There had been a time, two decades ago, when the habituation of gorillas had been controversial. Habituation and daily visits would cause stress, make the animals vulnerable to poachers, and bring them into regular contact with human disease. But habituation also allows the gorillas to be seen and to provide a foundation for a major tourist industry. We asked Jonathan what he thought. He was impressed:

“I would not want to say that every gorilla group should be habituated, and be turned into a commercial commodity, but I am fully in favour of very tightly regulated tourism which allows people to have this experience. And I am very impressed by what I saw: it was strictly limited to one hour which I think is essential to maintain an acceptable level of stress of the gorillas. Careful judgement is essential. If, for any reason, a particular group appears harassed by the attention, then I think it should stop for a while while people try and understand what is happening, which individuals are being stressed and why. I think it is a question of endless learning, I do not think you will ever have answers to these things in a definitive way. It has got to remain flexible and judged against the ultimate objective — ensuring the welling of the gorillas.”

UWA’s guest-book now has the following entry from Jonathan: “The new skills with habituating gorillas are wonderful to experience. Stephen and his gang have transformed the experience. A far cry from my many trips in the 1960s”

Come and see the gorillas for yourself! According to Jonathan and Laura, this is an experience no-one should miss. It something everyone should do at least once in their lives.

As Jonathan said: “We people do not have a future if we do not respect gorillas and nature in general. And I think the required awareness is greatly enhanced by watching gorillas. I would press anybody from anywhere to make this a pilgrimage. Make a point in your life time to go and see gorillas.”

Miriam and Douglas

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(http://www.africanworldheritagesites.org/african-natural-world-heritage-sites/Great-Rift/bwindi-impenetrable-national-park-uganda.html).

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.

Cheers!

Ivan

Exciting experiences of our new communications officer

Dear readers,

Since a week, ITFC has a staff member dedicated to communication: Ivan Wassaaka. We are very happy that he has joined us and asked him to give you an impression of his new home and tasks. The floor is yours, Ivan!

Ivan Wassaaka - Communications Officer, Institute of Tropical Forest Conservation

Ivan Wassaaka - Communications Officer, Institute of Tropical Forest Conservation

For me, nature and writing are intertwined. I believe strongly in sustainably conserving our natural environment; it inspires me to reflect and write about it. As the Communications Officer I will be responsible for collecting news from ITFC’s areas of operation and writing it up for websites, blogs and other fora. Luckily, collecting the news is a hands-on job and I will be working with the other ITFC staff, volunteers and stakeholders in order to relay the information straight from the forest floor! And so each morning with my laptop, camera and diary I set off and help out where and when I can, seeking out the next inspiring tale.

But I am getting ahead of myself. Let me tell you a little about how I got here, first…

Previously I worked with Kalagala Eco-tourism Development Organization (KTDO) as a community relations officer. Yet having studied East Africa’s natural science history during my tourism degree at university, I kept feeling a sense of frustration that I was not able to do more in this field. I had another opportunity working with Edsa African Safaris as marketing and administration manager from where I acquired a lot of knowledge and skills in corporate communications during these years. So when the ITFC advertised the vacancy of a communication officer, it was just the position I had been packaged for.

Ruhija sits at over 2,300m ASL in the spectacular hills of eastern Bwindi and on clear days you have the wonderful view of the Virunga Volcanoes. That said, the first 2 nights were just too cold for a newcomer. Temperatures here sometimes fall below 6C. Thank God for the three blankets I was offered, but still they all seemed to offer no solution. I had to wear 2 shirts even in these blankets so that I could enjoy some warm sleep.

You can never get bored in Bwindi! Everyday I just get carried away by the diversity of plants here. Often I am amused by myself, especially by the times I take gazing at the plants here. A 10 meters’ distance can take me several minutes to walk. Please bear with me, I have been to forests but I think Bwindi is just so different.

Taking a deeper look at yet another unique plant in Bwindi

Taking a deeper look at yet another unique plant in Bwindi

Ooh I hear you wondering, how visiting about the gorillas? Well, I have not yet seen them, I already strongly feel their nearness all round over me. Just the other day, on a walk through the forest with my new colleagues, I was walking in fresh footsteps of a family!

For now it is just enough being surrounded by over 1000 different plant species, 350 bird species, and the other primate species in this ‘impenetrable afromontane forest’!

Searching for gorillas? Not yet - I (in the background), with other colleagues on a walk through Bwindi Impenetrable Forest

Searching for gorillas? Not yet - I (in the background), with other colleagues on a walk through Bwindi Impenetrable Forest

Who would not pay for escaping the early morning traffic jams in Kampala, dogs and cats making boring noise through the nights, dusty, potholed and be-garbaged city streets allover? Here instead I have monkeys patrolling the office and my house, wonderful bird songs to awake and set the sun and oh, plenty of fresh food!

Along with experiencing overwhelming first impressions; I have learned much useful and interesting information which will serve me well during my tenure here. I probably cannot say enough thanks to the staff more especially the directors who have been giving it all their best to ensure that I am well set-up, giving me lots of literature and talk.

I am already full of ideas and very much excited about being the communication channel for ITFC’s research, monitoring and conservation work in the GVL of the Albertine Rift.
I just can’t wait!

Ruhija – a buzzing new centre for Mountain gorilla tourism and more

It is about 15 years ago that I first came to ITFC-Ruhija: there were 3 small houses lined up atop of a steep ridge. A dusty track to the tungsten/wolfram mine ran on the ridge, but a few people’s homes were down in the valley (nearer to water ), scattered on the steep slopes of the Kigezi landscape.

The people who first built houses on the ridge, worked for ITFC and wanted to be nearer to the station. A smart one started a ‘canteen’ for the necessary drink after a long day in the field and from one came another and another … My earlier self would hardly recognise it now : even in the 3 years we have been here, we have seen Ruhija growing and it has just become a “subcounty center” — that is a recognised town.

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Ruhija, village (now subcounty) atop the steep ridge next to ITFC

What got many local people excited, was the opening of the Bitukura Mountain Gorilla group for tourism, in August 2009. Tourism development in Bwindi had so far mostly benefited Buhoma, in the west of the park. Ruhija lies in the east and the altitude here is about 2350m, 1000m higher than Buhoma. That means a much cooler climate, and montane forest; even bamboo and heather can be found nearby. This area had received birders before, interested in the restricted range species of Bwindi that are mostly found in this, higher altitude section of Bwindi. ITFC used to run a small and basic guesthouse at the gate where they could stay.

We have closed our guest house service recently.  It needs some work and we’ll need to find funds for a new roof.  In any case people are not so dependent on us as there are now many new options in the village. So, if you are coming to Ruhija you have no need to worry: there are lots of places you can stay.  On http://www.itfc.org/Accommodation_Ruhija.htm you will find brief descriptions and recent contacts for all of them.

For reservations of Gorilla tracking – contact +256 414 355000 or email: infor@ugandawildlife.org .

But there is more to do from Ruhija:

* a guided walk to the Mubwindi swamp (inside the park, requiring payment of entrance fee and a ranger guide)

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* birding walks with trained bird guides

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* community walks in the spectacular landscape surrounding Ruhija, incl a local waterfall, swamp

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View of edge of Ruhija community land, into the forest and with the Virunga volcanoes in the background

* visiting local artisans like the blacksmith, local healer, basket weavers, honey collectors etc

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* enjoying a performance by the dance and song group of local children

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Local people are excited about the new opportunities that tourism has brought them and are organising themselves to develop ideas. Ruhija is worth a visit!

Miriam

Who is Benson, the Shelley’s Crimsonwing spotter?

14 Nov 2010 Telephone interview with Benson Bamutura, who is waiting in his home village for the RFCG project on Shelley’s Crimsonwing http://rarefinch.wordpress.com/find-shelley/ to continue

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From left to right: (juvenile) White-starred Robin; Regal Sunbird; Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird

Miriam: “How did you get so interested in birds?”

Benson: “From when I was a young boy I remember always hearing the bird calls around our compound and I would try to see the birds themselves. My home was near Kibale forest and from when I was around 16 years old, I went along with a friend who was guiding (birding) tourists in and around the forest. Then I also had a chance to take part in a guide training with a Community Based Organisation for Magonde swamp, which helped me even more.

From 2002 onwards, I started touring Uganda as a bird guide and learning a wider variety of birds. I got many contacts through the visitors I was guiding and once I had an email address and phone, they started calling me directly and I became a free lance guide!

 That is how I met Simon (Espley) for the first time in 2008 and he asked me to become the field leader for the Shelley’s project.”

M: “What motivates you to keep birding?”

B: “I really like ‘to keep in the wild’! And it has been satisfying to go out with visitors to Uganda who are really interested and enthusiastic about seeing our many and special birds in Uganda. It has been a good income too for me and my family.”

M: “What do you prefer: the bird guiding work or the research project you did with the RFCG?”

Benson holding a Dusky Crimsonwing ( Cryptospiza jacksoni ) . These finches have sometimes been reported to be seen with the elusive Shelley Crimsonwings 

Benson holding a Dusky Crimsonwing (Cryptospiza jacksoni). These finches have been reported to be seen with the elusive Shelley Crimsonwing. 

B: “I liked the research work better and could go on forever with that, if asked! I had a chance to see birds so close-up because of the netting. I even learned how to distinguish the sexes. And I was pleased to learn how to use a camera.”

M: “Anything special you want to tell about?”

B: “For the first time ever I saw the Grey-chested Illadopsis in the mist nets and also we had Mountain buzzards trying to pick the netted birds! Oh yes, and when we were trapping around Nkuringo (south side of Bwindi), we trapped 7 Red-faced Crimsonwings in one go! That was a real special day. Again in Nkuringo, one day our tents were surrounded by 13 Mountain gorillas.”

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Two males and one female Red-faced Crimsonwing  (Cryptospiza reichenovii)

M: “How did you feel when you heard that the rare Shelley’s Crimsonwing, which you had tried so hard to net during many months of fieldwork, had been spotted along a Bwindi trail by visitors?”

B: “Of course I was a bit sad it had not been me to see them! The visitors happened to be guided by Amos Monday Bunengo, one of my field assistants. He called me to let me know. Unfortunately, no-one got a picture of it. But we could go back to where they saw it and set up mist nets for some days, to try and catch it for detailed description, ringing and photos. Hearing about this sighting is stimulating for me to continue the search.”

M: “Any message for interested readers?”

B: “It is really important to keep our search for Shelley’s Crimsonwing going http://rarefinch.wordpress.com/find-shelley/ and I appeal to people to donate to the RFCG. It is such a rare bird and can only be found in Bwindi and Mgahinga, in the whole world… imagine!”

Miriam

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From left to right: Yellow White-eye;  Rwenzori Batis; (adult) White-starred Robin

Rare Shelley’s Crimsonwing was spotted in Ruhija!

Yes!!! for the first time in many years, the elusive Shelley’s Crimsonwing ( Cryospiza shelleyi ) has been spotted in Bwindi again. It happened in the morning of August 1st 2010, when Amos Monday Bunengo and Joni Kamugisha (of Avian Watch Uganda), both experienced Ugandan bird guides, were leading a group of 6 visitors into the (higher altitude) Ruhija sector of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.

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Amos Monday Bunengo, telling me about the sighting of the Shelley’s Crimsonwing

This is how Amos describes the experience: “Joni and I were guiding our visitors along the new Kajembejembe trail. It was about 10am in the morning and bright when I spotted a bird that came from above my head and descended about 7 meter in front of me. I knew immediately it was a Crimsonwing and it had a bright green colour on the belly, so I was sure this was the Shelley’s we had been trying to find for RFCG for so long. It was me who saw it first and then Joni as well. We saw it for about 5 minutes, feeding alongside the small stream along the trail. It was amazing!”

“No, we have no photographs, unfortunately. When something so special happens by chance, you are not ready for such a thing!”

The next day, another group of birders went along the same trail and was so lucky to see 4 Shelley’s! These were probably 2 pairs, as that is how they normally move around. This igroup was led by Mutebi, another experienced bird guide, from Access Uganda, whom we have not had a chance to contact yet. Again, no photos were taken according to Amos, so we have to show you once again the one photo in existence:

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The only photograph there is of a Shelley’s Crimsonwing, from Mgahinga NP. With thanks to the Gorilla Organisation!

Interestingly, Amos had come to report the event to ITFC, because he had seen the awareness raising posters in several places around the village, asking people who saw the Shelley’s to come and tell. Who had put up those posters and why?

The Rare Finch Conservation Group (RFCG) of South Africa has led a one year search for the Shelley’s (http://rarefinch.wordpress.com/find-shelley/) around Bwindi and Mgahinga from May 2009 . ITFC supported the field research and hosted Benson Bamutura, the project leader (link to website ITFC/RFCG). Unfortunately, his team never spotted one despite great efforts mist netting in early mornings and late afternoons in several places around the two parks.

I got in touch with Benson, after learning about the sighting and in my next blog will be the interview with him.

Check back in a few days!

Miriam