Research: culture and conservation of great apes in Uganda


Most of the available literature on culture and conservation is western-inspired and reveals an imagination of nature as wildlife and wild-lands. This has shaped the conservation discourse over the past few decades.

The conservation of the great apes and the examination of cultural values and practices that may protect their existence and safeguard their habitats is central to a study that CCFU is currently conducting.

The research

This research seeks to answer the following questions: “Are there cultural values, principles and conservation mechanisms practices and indigenous knowledge associated with the conservation of the great apes and their natural environment in existence in Uganda?” How have these evolved over time and what factors influenced changes, if any, and what are the implications for practice?”

Following review of the existing secondary literature, pre-visits were made to Kabarole, Kasese, Kanungu, Hoima, Budongo and Kagadi to introduce the research, identify key informants and institutions, and appropriate research locations.

By the end of February 2018, the research had been finalised awaiting validation and production of the research report to be launched in June 2018.

Expected outcomes

The Foundation expects this research to contribute to the; body of knowledge on the nexus between culture and the conservation, illustrated by the conservation of the great apes in totemic communities in Uganda; Reflection on conservation thinking and practices in respect to integrating traditional knowledge and skills in conservation (exploring possible implications on policy and practice); appreciation by state and non-state state institutions / actors of the relevance of nature and its conservation (especially of the great apes) for its cultural significance (rather than solely as objects for tourism and biodiversity).

We hope for the research will also inform activities that the Foundation will carry out in its culture and conservation agenda.


In 2014, the Arcus Foundation commissioned the Cross-Cultural Foundation of Uganda (CCFU) to carry out desk research on opportunities to strengthen the outcomes of its work by applying ‘a cultural values approach’ to the conservation of the great apes. This was followed by the compilation of a set of papers investigating the linkages between Biodiversity Protection and Cultural Values and Practices, to which CCFU contributed a piece on ‘Dealing with Diverse Perceptions of Conservation and Culture in Uganda’.