Tag Archives: crop raiding

ITFC receives funds for compiling a lessons learnt report on Human Wildlife Conflicts in the Greater Virunga Landscape from GVTC

The Institute of Tropical Forest Conservation (ITFC) is happy to announce acquisition of a grant from the Greater Virunga Transboundary Collaboration (GVTC) for compiling a report on lessons learnt on Human wildlife Conflicts (HWC) in the Greater Virunga Landscape (GVL).

HWCs occur when the needs and behavior of wildlife impact negatively on the goals of humans and vice versa, resulting into conflicts and animosity between wildlife and the local people. ITFC has previously done research on HWC mitigation measures around Bwindi and Mgahinga National parks including learning experiences elsewhere from Queen Elizabeth, Rwenzori and Semuliki National Parks under the USAID funded Wildwest Project.

A mountain gorilla in a banana plantation around Bwindi

Our previous blogs written on HWC around Bwindi and other protected areas in Uganda have included; who am I conserving for?, Raiding baboons and disease risks, Who pays the price? among others. It was from this experience that ITFC was contracted by the GVTC to compile a lessons learnt report on HWC in the GVL. ITFC is a member of the research, monitoring and Landscape committee of the GVTC and is happy to undertake such an important task.

The Greater Virunga Landscape (GVL) is Africa’s most biologically rich containing a variety of wildlife including elephants, hippos, lions, birds and the only population of the mountain gorillas. The high human population settlement in this region is a recipe for clear-cut conflicts between humans and wildlife. HWCs have been one of the biggest conservation challenges in the GVL for over two decades, posing a serious threat to wildlife, human livelihood and conservation.

Several mitigation methods against HWCs are being implemented in the GVL (see photos below). It is therefore important to document and recommend such mitigation measures to protected area managers. Along these lines, ITFC continues to be at a forefront of conducting research geared towards availing information needed to address this conservation challenge. Your thoughts on managing HWCs will be appreciated. We look forward to hearing from you.

The stonewall is used against Buffaloes in Mgahinga National Park (Uganda), Virunga National Park (Congo) and Volcanoes National Park (Rwanda)

Baboon traps have been used around Bwindi to control baboon raids on crop gardens

Our best regards,

Badru and Robert

Raiding baboons and disease risks

I am doing my MSc research with support from ITFC.  My study considers whether any health risks are posed by the movement and behaviour of Baboons (Papio anubis) around Bwindi and what might be done about it.

Baboons are adaptable and can live in various habitats. Even when humans clear away the baboon’s forest habitats for cultivation, settlement and other developments, baboons can exploite the resulting gardens.

Such resilience to habitat changes and the sharing of food sources with humans has however exposed baboons to a risk of contracting or transmitting a number of diseases. These in turn threaten other primates within their range.

Many field and experimental studies show that baboons have highly analogous reactions to diseases such as Tuberculosis, Shigella, Salmonella; many viruses (with recently HIV-2) of anthropoid primates including humans and great apes. Baboons belong to the class of old world monkeys that has been implicated in emerging hemorrhagic viruses. So it is well established that baboons can carry quite a diverse array of pathogens and potentially transmit these to other primate species.

Baboons spend much time along roads where they can easily acquire pathogens from humans.

Around Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, baboons are known to frequently raid outside the forest, into human communities, more than any other wild species causing considerable damage especially to crops. This presents a significant threat – disease transmission – across the park boundary that creates danger to community public health in terms of disease. It also increases the chance that these animals may transmit human pathogens to forest primate species.

Such diseases pose a particular threat to the conservation of the mountain gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei) which is a critically endangered species (according to the IUCN) with almost half of its global population living in the Bwindi forests.  We know that gorillas are susceptible to many of the same diseases as humans.  Other primate species in Bwindi may also be threatened by such potential disease transmission include the blue monkey (Cercopithecus mitis), l’hoest’s monkey (Cercopithecus l’hoesti), red-tailed monkey (Cercopithecus ascanius), black-and-white colobus (Colobus guereza), chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) and
vervet monkey (Cercopithecus aethiops).

Collecting baboon fecal samples non-invasively for laboratory analysis

In this study, I examine the role of baboons as potential carriers of micro-organisms including pathogens across the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (or Bwindi) among forest fauna and the contiguous human community.

Each day, I ascend the hills of Bwindi to determine baboon spatial and temporal patterns and their epidemiological (disease cause, transmission, spread pattern) impact. I also collect baboon fecal samples for use in DNA based methods to detect microbial exchange between baboons and the community. This should also be vital in detecting zoonotic pathogens that have been found in other species around Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.

A bite can be really harmful and spread disease such as viral encephalitis

A bite can be really harmful and spread disease such as viral encephalitis

The results from this study shall go a long way in evaluating role of baboons as potential carriers of micro-organisms, including pathogens across the Bwindi park boundary. The recommendations shall not only be applicable to Bwindi but also other protected areas with baboons.

A baboon seems to wonder why locals keep chasing them. Crop raiding could be one of the most significant drivers of pathogens transmission.

Keep tuned up for the study results and recommendations and let me hear what you think.

Agaba Hillary Kumanya
MSc. Student, Makerere University Kampala.

Who pays the price?

On a recent trip I was forcefully reminded that some local people pay a much bigger price for conservation than most of us. Let me share an example that sticks in my mind.

We have just visited a number of Uganda’s protected areas. We (Emmanuel Akampulira and myself) were investigating how communities judge interventions aimed at reducing the damage to crops caused by animals from the parks. This, as I noted in a previous blog, is a major problem for many who live close to the protected areas and lack good opportunities to leave. The visit was part of a new WCS project we have joined, funded by USAID. We at ITFC are especially interested to identify success stories to see whether the key ingredients can be identified, and thus replicated, in Bwindi and elsewhere.

We visited farmers on the edge of the Queen Elizabeth National Park. There have been several initiatives, including impressive deep ditches and dense thorn hedges as barriers against crop raiding animals. While both have some merits (the first can be good against elephants and the second against baboons and other smaller animals), the local people are reluctant to maintain these measures even when they have been established. This attitude is not unusual. We want to know why.

A typical village on the edge of the Queen Elizabeth National Park. That’s our car.

What struck us is that farmers are often angry. They say they have already invested time and effort and do not see the benefits. They do not understand why they should not be compensated when they lose their crops to “the park’s” animals. Why should they now give their time and effort to fix a problem made by others they ask. (Under Uganda’s laws farmers who suffer crop losses due to animals are not compensated — largely because it would be impossible to manage such a scheme which would almost certainly be abused).

There is more than food at stake. In many cases children have to help their parents guard the crops day and night and are thus kept from school. And guarding is not without risks. One farmer who we interviewed insisted on showing the field where his crops had been near totally destroyed just a week earlier. ‘What will he eat now?’ he asked me. I took a picture of him with his hand full of elephant dung from his field that he shook as he spoke. He also wanted to show me a cheerful young boy with a scarred face. He carefully explained that this too was due to the park and its animals; while guarding the fields the boy had fallen asleep and been attacked by a hyena which had torn the flesh from the back of his head — though his life was saved by surgeons he had lost an eye.

Who should pay for the damage in his fields? Here is the fresh dung to show it was elephants.

Guarding the fields is frequently left to children. Some miss school, while others like this boy, risk serious injury by the animals (he lost his eye when he was attacked by a hyena after he had fallen asleep).

It is indeed a confronting experience but I am not sharing this story simply to shock. This is about achieving long-term conservation. This farmer felt that people cared about the animals but not about him or this boy. They are poor but they pay more for Uganda’s conservation than any of us. We asked what solution he favoured: he wanted the animals shot.

Such challenges are not easily fixed. But they cannot be ignored.As long as local people are alienated, effective conservation will be hard to sustain. In any democracy people need to support their government’s actions: including conservation.

We need effective measures to help local communities live next to animals. I am hoping that our research will be a significant contribution.

Village children. What can we do to reduce the chance they will grow up as enemies of conservation and the nearby national park?

Please let me know what you think!

Best wishes



This study is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Wildlife Conservation Society. The contents are the responsibility of the Institute of Tropical Forest Conservation and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID, the United States Government or the Wildlife Conservation Society.

There goes my potatoes

Two days ago my field of potatoes was raided. I lost about twenty sacks of potatoes, which would have helped to feed my family and some of it I would have sold to help pay school fees. I found out that a troop of baboons had raided my garden in the afternoon, just when the boy I had employed as a guard had gone for lunch.


A healthy field of potatoes; but will it survive till harvest time?

Maybe you have not heard of crop raiding before? Many people around Bwindi and other protected areas face this problem and it has remained a challenge for the Uganda Wildlife Authority who manage the National Park. The main animals that raid crops are baboons, bushpigs, elephants, monkeys and even gorillas in some places. This loss of food and income has often caused bad feelings from communities towards the Park Managers. No easy solution has been found so far (see Douglas’ blog on the Nkuringo buffer zone).

These days local people are more positive about living next to a national park than a decade ago. Some are even involved in conservation (like myself), but it is easy to become discouraged again when our crops are destroyed by wild animals from the protected area. No compensation is offered. Because of crop raiding, fields along the boundary of Bwindi need to be guarded during day time when there is a crop. Children may not go to school for several days/weeks in order to protect the family’s fields near to harvesting time. However, during night hours no-one is guarding and remember, some animals move and feed during the night and of course they do not always stay within the park boundaries.

Planting crops that do not attract animals (tea, coffee, fast growing trees, pyrethrum etc), has been successful around some other protected areas. But people experience land shortage and poor yields, so it is hard to dedicate a field to non-food crops if you have to feed a large family. Fences are too expensive and in any case they do not keep out the baboons which simply climb over.


Pine trees planted next to the park boundary; unattractive for wild animals. But will they cross to get to the fields?

Do you have any innovative suggestions for a solution to our crop raiding problem? That would be welcome!