Destruction of human property (crops, houses, etc.) and sometimes lives in and around wildlife protected areas like Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (BINP) and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park (MGNP) is a serious problem that communities around the parks have to bear. This cost, more often exceeding the benefits accruing to the neighboring communities, has been a source of conflict between BINP managers and communities. These problems are a common occurrence around BINP and MGNP.
Land use changes and the search for farmland resulting from population pressure have led to a decrease in wildlife habitat. Human encroachment on wildlife habitat has thus, resulted in an increase in human-wildlife conflicts. Much research has been carried out in Bwindi, but an area that has not received any attention within the agricultural developments and conservation, is potential damage the wildlife cause to farmers around BINP. The aim of this study is to examine the impact of crop raiding by wildlife on farmers around the park. These results will have important implications for future wildlife conservation policy and practice, like crop raiding protection strategies.
Muyambi Fortunate's project was previously supported by the Zoo's Small Grants program in 2002 and the project received additional funding in 2004 through the same program.
Project Report: August 2004
This study focused mainly on crop loss to primates and local communities' perceptions on park management around Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (BINP). These studies were carried out from January-June 2003 and repeated July 2003-January 2004 to determine the seasonal patterns and frequency of crop damage by wildlife. Systematic monitoring of crop loss to wildlife was carried out in and around BINP for 12 months. The design was aimed at quantifying the amount of crop loss to wildlife. Interviews were also carried out among the communities to gauge their perceptions of the problem of crop loss to wildlife and to primates in particular.
In six months, systematic monitoring of crop loss to wildlife was also carried out in gardens adjacent to the park boundary in Nteko and Mukono parishes. This revealed that bush pigs, baboons, gorillas and l'Hoest monkeys destroyed up to 16% of the total planted area per season. The distribution of damage was uneven; most crop damage was inflicted on six species of crops, particularly maize, gorilla crop damage was restricted to 350 meters of the park boundary. Damage and loss were highly localized to a narrow band of fields very close to the forest boundary. Fields within 100 meters of the forest boundary experienced the most crop loss. Distances of fields to forest boundary and to nearest bush fallow continuous with forest boundary explain the variation in crop damage, intensity and frequency of crop raiding by baboons, gorillas and monkeys.
More than seventy five percent of the farmers interviewed in the parishes of Mukono and Nteko considered baboons to be an agricultural problem. The proportion of farmers reporting a baboon problem though did not differ significantly between Mukono and Nteko. In both parishes, farmers' estimation of crop loss differed greatly with systematically quantified crop loss by men who spent the least time cultivating registering higher estimates of crops lost. Damage occurred all year round, but farmers regarded the wet season as being the time of maximum crop loss. When asked if crop-raiding animals had increased in numbers in recent years, eighty seven percent of farmers reporting a problem said yes compared with forty five percent of those not having a baboon problem.
The majority of farmers interviewed said that bush pigs are a major pest because they come at night in large numbers and can kill people, followed by baboons and gorillas that crop raid to a lesser extent. Thus, these species are regarded as dangerous animals that are able to cause a great deal of damage to people and crops.
Domestic bananas were the crops most raided by gorillas followed by Eucalyptus trees and sweet potatoes. In all gorilla groups, banana pith was most liked. Eucalyptus barks and sweet potato vines were most eaten by Nkuringo gorilla group in Nteko parish. There was no crop raiding done by the unhabituated group.
A number of wildlife control methods are available, but there is not enough information to allow any one method to be recommended. Planting unpalatable (buffer) crops near the forest boundary and live hedges (Mauritius thorn) may offer an effective means of reducing crop raiding.