Launching the ‘Culture and the conservation of the great apes in Uganda’ research report
On 12th July 2018, conservationists from international and national organisations, state agencies, cultural leaders, individual cultural enthusiasts, private forest owners and the media came together at Fairway Hotel in Kampala to launch a research report on ‘Culture and the conservation of the great apes in Uganda’.
Grace Aulo, Commissioner of Tourism, Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities highlighted the need to conserve the great apes especially from the cultural perspective to boost tourism and highlight the value of culture in development aspects in Uganda. Relatedly, Tom Okello, Executive Director, National Forestry Authority emphasized the need to have a ministry of culture so that culture can be fully mainstreamed in conservation and other development agenda.
The research and its findings
The research was conducted in the Bunyoro and Rwenzori sub regions in 2017 and 2018. In this study, the Cross-Cultural Foundation of Uganda (CCFU), supported by Arcus Foundation, establishes how culture can contribute to conservation of the great apes in Uganda, especially the chimpanzee.
This research revealed that among the Banyoro and the Bakonzo a link between culture and the great apes exists mainly for the chimpanzee, rather than the gorilla. The chimpanzee is a totem for two clans – the Batangyi (Bakonzo) and Bayanja (Banyoro). Both clans have a positive perception of their totem and have taboos against harming, killing or harassing the chimpanzee. The actions of the Batangyi clan in the Rwenzori region demonstrate that communities can be motivated by their cultural values and take practical steps to conserve the chimpanzee because of its cultural significance. It also shows that, without external legal enforcement, communities can actively protect and conserve the chimpanzee and work with existing State authorities in this respect. However some cultural practices impact negatively on the conservation of the chimpanzee. Traditional medicine practitioners admit using body parts of the chimpanzees for healing (mainly due to the influence of the Congolese migrants).
The research calls upon the Uganda Wildlife Authority to engage cultural institutions for conservation actions; the use of indigenous knowledge and skills in conservation and awareness raising activities at local levels. Partner with private forest owners to preserve and support the conservation of the chimpanzee such as establishing wildlife ranches for tourism. Ensure that investors are accountable for destroying natural and cultural heritage and contribute to their restoration to the extent possible. Carry out a census of chimpanzees in Uganda to monitor and assess the extent to which culture and other factors are impacting on their endangered species. Read other recommendations to stakeholders in the research report.
CCFU is optimistic that most of the recommendations made will be incorporated in development programming and with support from partners. CCFU hopes to be part of the implementation of the action points proposed in that research.