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  Newsletter   read news and views from the forest online
May 1998 (Volume One, Number One)
Read about the first scientific studies at the Budongo Forest Project.
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Editorial - Vernon Reynolds
Logging practices and Budongo's wildlife - Andy Plumptre
Local uses of forest products - Kirsten Johnson
Chimpanzee parasites - Gladys Kalema
Ecology of Budongo's blue monkeys - Chris Fairgreave
Chimpanzees coping with disabilities - Duane Quiatt


by Vernon Reynolds

Welcome to Budongo Forest project, Vol. 1, No. 1! It is a real pleasure to introduce this our first Newsletter. It makes me feel quite nostalgic to read these accounts by our early pioneers. It was Chris Bakuneeta wo found our research site at the old Sonso sawmill, now more or less defunct. When he and I travelled to Budongo in 1990 we stayed at Nyabyeya Forestry College, and we were there again in March 1991. At that time we were exploring with Mr. Patel, owner of Budongo sawmills Ltd, whether we could move into one of his wooden houses at Sonso. He agreed, and Chris moved in. I first saw what is now 'House 1' on 15th July 1991. Chris had also established an excellent trail system in the forest to the north, east and west of the house. The project had taken off.

Chris Bakuneeta, our first Ugandan co-director. He took on our first Field Assistants, Transect Cutters and domestic staff. From 1990 to 1997 he studied the ecology of the Sonso chimpanzees, comparing their use of logged and unlogged forest.


Andy Plumptre was with me on that day in July 1991, and when I left to return to England he stayed on. He didn't know it but that house was to be his home for the next five years! I'm not sure whether he ever made his bed in all that time. But one thing I am sure of - he worked like a man possessed, both inside the forest and also in the house, where he entered huge piles of checksheet data onto his laptop computer. the results are still coming out.

Some of our first scientific visitors have written brief accounts of their work here. More accounts will follow in later Newsletters. I thought we'd start with the earlier people first, and move on to the most recent ones as time goes by.

I want to take this opportunity to thank all who have made the BFP possible, too many to mention by name. All will be revealed in future issues! Our donors have been very generous - Jane Goodall Institute who got us off the ground, the Boise Fund, the Rainforest Action Fund, the National Geographic Society, the Overseas Development Administration, USAID, and now as I write our core funding is coming from NORAD, the Norwegian Aid Agency. To all our sincerest thanks.

If you were at Budongo, please write in. I wish our chimps could write too. We'll feature them from time to time. This Newsletter is intended for all with an interest in BFP. Our mailing list is incomplete, so please let me know of people who might like to receive a (paper) copy and we'll add them if they aren't on it. Write to me, or our current expat co-director, Jeremy Lindsell.

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Logging practices and Budongo's wildlife

by Andy Plumptre

Andy Plumptre was expat co-director of BFP from 1991-1997. Here he summarises the work he did at Budongo. Andy now works for the Wildlife Conservation Society in New York where he is in charge of their Africa programme.


The focus of my research at Budongo was to investigate the effects of selective logging practices on forest structure and composition and how this in turn affects the primate and bird communities. It is difficult to summarise six years work into half a page so I will only briefly skim over the topics covered here. Research on the primates involved surveys of densities, group sizes and diets in eight areas of the forest (these areas were selected to represent different recovery times since logging) which has allowed an analysis of what factors are important in determining primate densities in Budongo. For Cercopithecus mitis and C. ascanius the availability of fleshy fruits is important in determining the densities of these monkeys and Colobus guereza densities are correlated with their most important food plant, Celtis durandii. Additionally, 17 primate groups were habituated to gather more detailed data on home range size, dietary intake, daily distance moved, and behavioural activity in an unlogged, Cynometra dominated forest (compartment N15) and around the field station which is mixed forest logged in about 1950 (compartment N3). The showed that home ranges were significantly smaller in the logged forest and distances travelled were less. Predation by crowned eagles appears to be higher in the unlogged forest.

At the same time as these studies phenology data were collected in the eight study areas during 1993 and have been collected in N15 and N3 since 1993 to the present date and are still ongoing. Data on tree growth and mortality are being collected at the same time so that an analysis of the effects of fruit production on growth can be analysed in the future. Data analysed so far show that some trees, particularly mahoganies, do not fruit until they reach large sizes (50cm diameter at breast height) which has great implications for the sustainable harvesting of these species if natural regeneration is relied upon to provide future crops.

Studies of bird communities in five areas of the forest were carried out by Isaiah Owiunji and myself and showed that frugivorous, nectivorous, omnivorous and bark gleaning insectivorous birds are all more abundant in logged forest. Leaf gleaning insectivores and sallying insectivorous birds are at lower densities in logged forest. Sallying insectivores are probably good indicators of disturbance to tropical forest as they seem to decline where ever there is disturbance across the tropics.

In addition to the research I was involved in and greatly enjoyed training MSc students from Makerere University. This I feel is one of the most important areas where the Budongo Forest Project can contribute to long term conservation in Uganda and I was very pleased to see all of the MSc students to date have continued with employment in protected area management or biological research.

There are many people who need to be thanked for helping me with the research and establishment of BFP: Chris and Vernon who set the place up and contributed greatly to its management whilst I was there, the Forest Department and Game Department who allowed us to do research, people at Makerere who were always supportive and particularly all the field assistants who 'busted their butts' (got to get some yankee lingo in here somewhere) to collect all the data and create such a great working environment at Sonso.

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Local uses of Budongo's forest products

by Kirsten Johnson

Kirsten Johnson was our first research student. Her study was on the uses local people were making of the non-timber forest products in Budongo. she found an ethnically diverse population to be using the forest in very many ways. Her M.Sc. thesis remains a landmark in the subject.


The field work for this project was carried out in 1991 and was the first of its kind to be carried out amongst the population of Nyabyeya parish situated close to the southern edge of the Budongo Forest. Based at the site of the Budongo Forest Project, I visited villages daily for a period of three months in order to conduct a semi-structured questionnaire with the assistance of a translator/interpreter Kugonza Dissan. The research established that a variety of medicinal, wood, and animal products were regularly obtained from the forest. It also identified the presence of settlers from a larger number of ethnic groups that had previously been thought, as well as a pattern of forest product use which for some resources was determined by group.

Of most importance to conservation was the identification of primate hunting for meat, particularly amongst groups originating from Zaire. Although the research has proved a valuable introduction to local nature resource needs, the full cultural significance of local uses of forest products required much longer-term anthropological research. Nevertheless, the findings have been used regularly by other researchers and staff for the planning of other projects and in researching the potential for long-term conservation of biological diversity in the forest.

The research was written up for the degree of M.Sc. by research at the Institute of Biological Anthropology, Oxford University, and supervised by Prof. V. Reynolds. Results may also be found in three publications.
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Chimpanzee parasites

by Gladys Kalema

Gladys Kalema was our first Ugandan research student. While studying for her veterinary degree in London she came to Uganda to do her project on the faecal parasites of the Sonso chimp community.


In September 1992, I came to Budongo forest and did a study on the intestinal helminth parasites of wild chimpanzees. The chimpanzee was the first species for me to do a parasitological study on. This study lasted 2 weeks and I was supervised by Prof. Vernon Reynolds, director of the Budongo forest project and Dr. Mark Fox, lecturer of Parasitology at the Royal Veterinary College. London University, where I was doing my veterinary degree. I did the study between my second and third year of the veterinary course.

My aim was to carry out a study of chimpanzees for two weeks that would provide conclusive data. Examining intestinal helminth parasites meant that I could collect enough data to at least find out the type of parasites that are harboured by the chimpanzees of Budongo forest. I also wanted to get additional information on the level of parasitic infection of the chimpanzees, and factors which may influence the parasite type and burden. The study was based at the research station at Sonso.

I was able to collect 33 samples in this short period which was very good. I got plenty of support from a lot of people which i am very grateful for, especially as this was my first time to work in the field. I am very grateful to Dr. Appleby and Prof. Vernon Reynolds who gave me the idea of studying parasites in chimpanzee dung. I was greatly assisted by the field assistants, Kugonza Dissan and Tuka Zephyr who took me into the forest to collect the dung each morning, and identified some of the chimps for me so that I knew which chimp passed the particular dung. Sometimes the field assistants would collect samples for me and I was also assisted by Dr. Andy Plumptre who had collected and preserved come samples from Kanyo-Pabidi area earlier on so that I could ass them to my sample size for some comparison with Sonso where I got most of my samples. i did not have a field microscope, but luckily Dr. Jake Reynolds lent me his torch which acted as a light source. The microscope was then put on top of an upside down soda crate, and the torch placed under-neath it so I was able to see the parasite eggs. I also started off the study with no devices to measure the size of parasite eggs which is very important for identification, so Dr. Jake Reynolds obtained a stage micrometer for me in Makerere university, which enabled me to identify to come up with some conclusive evidence while in the field, on the exact type of eggs. Late Dr. Peter miller helped me to identify some of the parasites as he had some experience in it. Dr. Vernon Reynolds assisted greatly in writing the scientific report especially as this was my first time to write a scientific report. I was also fortunate to get as much literature as I could from the late Dr. Berkeley Hastings, a contact given to me by Dr. Andy Plumptre.

I would have wanted to get more samples from the Kanyo-Pabidi area to make a better comparison between Sonso and Kanyo-Pabidi. Also the time that I was there was too short to pick up more varieties of parasites. Consequently the study was continued in July 1996 by another veterinary student, Michelle Barrows from Glasgow Vet School, and more types of parasites eggs were found, so knowledge is being built up. I would have wanted to get more data on Khaya bark, and whether it affected the parasite burden of the chimpanzees, but was not able to because the sample size was too small. However in this study I was pleased with the outcome because I was able to come up with conclusive data by finding out the 2 most common parasites affecting the chimpanzees of Budongo forest, Oesophagostomum sp. and Strongyloides fulleborni. I was able to learn something about chimpanzee behaviour and ecology, which I will always treasure. All this knowledge has come in very useful in my present job, in Uganda Wildlife Authority, where I am responsible for the health of chimpanzees.
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The ecology of Budongo's blue monkeys

by Chris Fairgreve

Chris Fairgreve was our first PhD student. He came to us from Edinburgh University, where his supervisor was Elizabeth Rogers. He specialised in all-day follows of the monkeys, going into the forest before daylight began and returning after it had finished. He also set new standards of cuisine for the project.


I arrived in Budongo in early 1993, and found the Budongo Forest Project already well established with a hardworking staff and field assistants already trained. The work I had come to carry out involved studying groups of blue monkeys (Cercopithecus mitis stuhmanni), in areas of logged and unlogged forest, with a view to documenting differences in ecology which might have resulted from the changes in vegetation associated with logging in Budongo. It had already been observed that density of blue monkeys was higher in areas of logged forest and in conducting a more detailed study of their ecology it was hoped to establish which factors if any were responsible for these differences in density. To help me in this task, Muhumuza Geresomu was to work with me, and did so excellently throughout the period of fieldwork, proving to be an invaluable help as well as a good companion in the field.

The main part of my work was to make a comparison of the feeding ecology and ranging patterns of four groups of blue monkeys, two in an area of unlogged forest and two in an area logged in the 1950s. In addition, patterns of fruit leaf and flower production were to be recorded for an important subset of tree species which provided the main food items for blue monkeys in the two areas. Finally, within the home ranges of two groups (one in unlogged forest and one in logged forest) vegetation plots were to be laid out and enumerated to provide data on the structure and composition of the habitat and to investigate any differences which may have been important in determining home range size and requirements.

Initial work involving habituation of the necessary groups went well and data collection on the four study groups continued for a period of twelve months. the recording of tree phenology was carried out during the same period, and together with the data on tree species abundance and diversity, this allowed estimates of food availability within the ranges of the groups to be made. As had been suggested by the higher density of blue monkeys in logged forest, the habitat appeared to be more diverse with a higher production of blue monkey foods compared to unlogged forest. Range sizes were consequently smaller and groups in logged forest had a higher intake of fruit (probably their preferred food) compared to groups in unlogged forest.

The evidence therefore suggested that logged forest in Budongo was a more suitable habitat for blue monkeys. This was largely due to the nature of unlogged forest, described as 'monodominant' and low in species diversity, as well as the low intensity logging which was carefully carried out in the 1950s. Logged forest subsequently regenerated well and the resulting forest type was more suitable for an omnivorous primate like the blue monkey.
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Chimpanzees coping with disabilities

by Duane Quiatt

Duane Quiatt was our first research visitor of full professional status, thus adding a new level of dignity to the Project. A well known anthropologist, he initiated studies of injuries on our Sonso chimps, which were later followed up by John Waller. Among other achievements he made Vernon feel younger than someone else on the project.


I worked at the BFP in 1993, 1994 and 1995 for periods ranging from 10 to 15 weeks. My main concern was with disabled chimpanzees of the Sonso Community, more specifically with motor deficiencies that in practically all instances have resulted from encounters with snares, examining the extent to which locomotor and feeding behaviour is impaired by injuries of various character, differences in the way that individuals cope with their particular handicap, and differences in the degree and character of social integration of disabled vs. able chimpanzees. Preliminary results were reported to the IPS Congress in 1994, co-authored with Vernon Reynolds and in press, still, as of March 1998. We are currently preparing a more comprehensive and multi-authored report on snare injuries to chimpanzees with resultant disability.

I have also been interested in leaf sponging and in the instrumental use of leaves in other connections. Zephyr and I reported the first observation of leaf sponging by a Sonso chimpanzee in 1993. In 1996, with the help of other research assistants, we began to compile on a regular basis observations of leaf use. This work continues. I don't know when I will be able to make another visit to the BFP - the sooner the better, of course. I have not worked with any of the project's field assistants, but I owe particular thanks to Zephyr for helping in learning to recognise individual chimpanzees (and in learning much else). to Tinka John for identification of plant species, to Muhumuza Geresomu for certain procedural observations when we were both watching chimpanzees in 1994, to Joy and Richard for more or less continual assistance out of the forest, and to everyone and most particularly the trail crew for fellowship on holidays.


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1999 - 2006. The Budongo Forest Project