Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (BINP), in south-western Uganda, are a home to half the world’s remaining population of 1004 mountain gorillas, whose numbers are steadily increasing but still critically endangered. However, living around this parks, in close proximity to the gorillas, are some of the country’s poorest and most isolated
indigenous communities. These people are predominantly subsistence farmers and livestock keepers who cultivate , water and graze their animals at the boundaries of the park. In doing so, they come into frequent contact with gorillas. Mountain gorillas are threatened by disease from closely related humans, high human population growth, poverty, habitat degradation, poaching of other species in the forest including duiker and bush pigs and human/wildlife conflict. Due to these high incidences of human-gorilla contact, in addition to their close genetic relatedness, naive gorillas are also increasingly becoming infected with pathogens ,parasites and protozoans found in contaminated water sources and livestock and human faeces
Subsistence farming is the primary reason for poaching around Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and poverty is the main driver because people are unable to own or buy their own resources due to lack of money/ financial support. Poor conservation attitudes to the park also play a secondary role. Poverty and attitudes are most probably inter-related . Research indicates that Integrated Conservation and development programs will be more effective than law enforcement at reducing poaching in the park (Harrison 2013). Human wildlife conflict over the years has been an area that brings animosity between wildlife conservation management and the local communities as crop raiding reduces food security; the community members/ children are forced into crop guards against baboons and other wildlife (2014 State Of Conservation Report For Bwindi Impenetrable National Park)
The resources most commonly collected from this Parks without authorization are bush meat, firewood, medicinal plants, poles and honey. Poaching in Bwindi is mainly by snaring. Despite the fact that the key species in Bwindi are not targeted, snares can accidentally trap an untargeted wildlife therefore there is need for community sensitization and provision of sustainable alternative sources of livelihoods. Reducing human and gorilla conflict is also critical in protecting gorillas and minimizing negative community attitudes to goril
Elgon Wildlife conservation organization works to promote conservation of endangered wildlife with emphasis on the great apes and other endangered wildlife throughout the entire home range while addressing all ecosystem issues that sustain co-existence of wildlife, humans, and livestock. Our goal is to Mainstream biodiversity conservation into development policies, plans and projects to deliver the co-benefits of biodiversity conservation, improved local livelihoods and economic development in communities where we work.
Dr. James Watuwa leading a team during the mountain Gorilla Census in Bwindi.
We also promote one health research initiatives at the interface of ecosystem, animal, and human health that address local conservation challenges and emerging diseases,
Implementing activities that reduce negative interactions between people and gorillas including preventing and controlling cross species disease transmission and reducing human and wildlife conflict.
ANTI POACHING INITIATIVES
Poaching and illicit trafficking of wildlife are among the 5 most lucrative illegal trades globally, earning at least $19 billion annually. Wildlife trafficking devastates populations of wildlife species, threatens global security, and undermines national development .works at the local, national, regional and international levels to combat poaching and wildlife trafficking. Elgon Wildlife conservation organization support focuses on 3 areas: strengthening law enforcement and advocacy for policies favorable to the environment, working with local communities to create jobs and support livelihoods, and helping reduce demand for illegally traded wildlife.
Elgon Wildlife Conservation Organization raises awareness about the devastating effects of poaching bush meat hunting in critical wildlife dispersal areas near and outside of wildlife protected areas including community conserved areas. We do this in partnership with Uganda wildlife Authority, Uganda wildlife and Conservation Education Center (Entebbe zoo) and other conservation organizations through rescuing animals trapped with wire snares and injured by the same in various known hotspots for bush meat hunting in protected areas in Uganda. Elgon Wildlife Conservation Organization and local stakeholders rescue wild animals trapped by wire snares while also mopping up substantial volumes of live and dead wire traps in the surveyed regions.
MITIGATING HUMAN WILDLIFE CONFLICT
This program area is largely informed by the various forms of reported human-animal conflict. Generally, as a result of; the presence of environmental degradation, encroachment and increased land fragmentation has resulted in an incremental trend in cases of human-animal conflict globally. In Africa, and based on several underlying factors; whether social, economic, technological and/or environmental nature, such cases often result in destruction of property or loss of biodiversity through habitat destruction or destabilization of the ecosystems’ equilibria. In some cases, loss of human life has been observed through violent/active involvement of animals or via passive/indirect routes such as zoonotic disease spread.
Dr. James Watuwa participating in training Rangers in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
Elgon Wildlife Conservation Organization works with government and like-minded stakeholders to carry out interventions that contribute to maintaining a balance between various human practices and animal survival (biodiversity conservation). Our focus on communities is generally geared towards innovative use of technology to provide solutions to causes of conflict and placement of affordable mitigation measures in addition to training park management staff
Elgon Wildlife Conservation Organization advocates for the preservation of critical wildlife protected areas between protected areas passing through community-owned land develop a range management plan for integrating landscape conservation and livestock production to protect critical, gorillas, elephants, lions and large herbivores. We aim to contribute towards recruitment and remuneration for local guardians to provide security and community liaison between the ranch and the local land owners. As a result, illegal bush meat hunting will be reduced, fewer wild animals are being poached for meat and community goodwill has increased through co-operating-responsibility activities such as the community conservation sports league.
RESEARCH AND ADVOCACY
Elgon Wildlife Conservation Organization is a member organization of Phages For Global Health -East African Research Team . .Motivated by the deficit of phage experts in Africa and Asia – regions where 90% of deaths caused by antibiotic resistance occur – Phages for Global Health is on a mission through training phage expertis in combating cross species antimicrobial resistance in overlapping populations of humans, endangered wildlife species and livestock in and around protected areas in Uganda and Africa .
East Africa Phage working research group 2018
WHAT ARE BACTERIOPHAGES
Bacteriophages (phages) are natural bacteria-killing viruses that exist in our environment, food, and bodies and that can be selected to target only specific bacteria while leaving other, helpful bacteria and human cells unharmed. Phages have been a standard component of medicine in certain parts of the world for >100 years, where they have proven to be remarkably safe and effective. Most notably, phages are active against antibiotic-resistant bacteria — a crucial feature in the midst of our global antimicrobial resistance crisis. In addition, phages can be easily isolated from contaminated environments, and they are inherently inexpensive to manufacture. All of these factors make phages particularly well-suited as antibiotic alternatives for developing countries. Elgon Wildlife Conservation Organization is a member organization in Phages for Global health and currently in partnership with Makerere university , carrying out research to isolate and characterize phages cross species phages in overlapping populations of humans, endangered wildlife species and livestock in and around protected areas in Uganda
Our Founder Dr. James Watuwa won a scholarship from Phages For Global Health to attend a training in molecular diagnostics, bacteriophage isolation and characterization in Mombasa Kenya 2018
ELEPHANT RESEARCH PROJECT IN BWINDI IMPENETRABLE NATIONAL PARK
In the dense forests of Uganda , endangered elephants are difficult to study and protect because they are so difficult to see. We use automated sound-recording equipment to collect their vocalizations. This gives our Project and local biologists valuable information about elephant numbers, movements, and communication. We use this information to improve our understanding of elephants and to protect their dwindling numbers from poaching and disturbance from logging and seismic energy exploration.
Dr. James Watuwa Collecting mountain gorilla fecal samples for research
Our Founder Dr. James Watuwa leading a team of researchers during the mountain gorilla census in Bwindi in 2018