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CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTION
Tropical moist forests cover only (10-15%) of the Earth's surface area, and contain approximately (50-90%) of the world's fauna and flora species (Struhsaker, 1987; Grove, 1997). Of the remaining tropical moist forests, only about (4%) is legally protected area from exploitation (Lanly, 1982; Myers, 1984). Tropical moist forests probably covered more than (6%) of Uganda's land surface area at one time (Butynski, 1984), but due to agricultural expansion, these forests have been reduced by at least half (Butynski, 1985; Struhsaker, 1987). The little natural forest left on public land out side the forest protected area's (PA's) may not continue to exist in 15-20 years (Struhsaker, 1981). It is apparent that, today, these forests occupy less than half of the area they covered 50 years ago.
The Mgahinga Gorilla National Park (MGNP) is not unique to this threat and forms part of the Virunga Conservation Area (VCA), and is the smallest natural afromotane forest left among others under protection in Uganda. The forest has been under going intensive destruction through illegal utilization arising out of (Agricultural practices, poaching, resource harvesting, Smuggling through the PA, fire incidences). The MGNP protects a large number of plant and animal species endemic to the Albertine Rift (Kalina, 1991), including the endangered mountain gorilla. The role of forests in water catchment, prevention of flooding, siltation and soil erosion is well documented (Hamilton, 1984; Struhsaker, 1987). The MGNP is of significant importance in playing a role of regulating the local climate, rain fall temperature and Carbon dioxide (CO₂) levels (Myers, 1984). The area is largely considered potential for tourism destination and for scientific research (Butynski, 1990). The major problem facing the conservation of the MGNP is the increasing rate of habitat loss, or modification due to human population growth. This problem is responsible for loss of some (2%) every year of the remaining tropical high forest in Uganda (Hamilton, 1984). This is related to the large scale destruction of forests in south-western Uganda.
Montane forests in East Africa form an archipelago recognized to have uniquely adapted plant and animal species the same way that Oceanic Islands do (Hamilton, 1976; 1980; Stuart, 1990; Mackinnon and Mackinnon, 1986). Endemism is particularly high in these afro-tropical realms. For example, the Usambara Mountains constitute what is probably one of the riches biological communities in Africa in terms of species numbers and endemism with percentage of endemic taxa varying from (2%) in mammals to (95%) for millipedes (Rodgers and Homewood, 1982). The Ruwenzori forest contains the only population of the extremely rare race, Colobus angolensis ruwenzorii (Struhsaker, 1981).
1.2 Back ground
Over the past decade protected PA's were managed authoritatively with traditional approach of strong law enforcement. With purpose to achieve the set objective of strict preservation management regimes for biodiversity protection, and local communities were disregarded in management and benefit sharing. It is widely argued that it has alienated local communities from protected areas, and resulted in loss of ecological biodiversity, and are thus outdated (Colchesster, 1998; Martin, 1999).
The traditional approach can not be described as a failure in the way that its critics portray (Spinage, 1998; Attwell, 2000), and they emphasized caution in engaging local communities into PA management issues. While the search for effective remedy to wildlife conservation and management in Africa continues, there is growing consensus to engage local communities (Lewis, et al,. 1990; McNeely, 1989). The department of Research and Monitoring advocated for a case study to establish, opportunities, challenges and underlying conservation management threats in MGNP, which is part of the GVL.described in page 19.
1.3 Justification for the study
The MGNP continue to witness increased loss and deterioration of its habitat, and this has translated into decline of mountain gorilla population and other species due to human influence. At present, MGNP acts as an ‘' Ecological Island'' in a sea of diverse human activities, and more so its part of the GVL ( 1.3). MGNP is one of the few remnant forests remaining in Uganda, and hosts an array of mammals and plant species largely considered endemic to the Albertine Rift. Human activities are increasing the threats to the critically endangered mountain gorilla population, includes traveling through the park, livestock grazing, poaching, illegal removal of resources and fires (Butynski, 1984). In order to protect the critically endangered mountain gorilla's, biological and economic values of the MGNP, conservationists convinced the Government of Uganda (GoU) to upgrade its status from Gorilla Game Reserve (GGR) to national park in 1991. Among the significance of conservation of MGNP listed includes the benefits from tourism development (Butynski, 1991).
The opportunity exists both in tourism development, and to incorporate local community participation into the planning and implementation stages of the MGNP programs. Mountain gorilla tourism is expected to benefit the local community from the portion of the revenue generated from tourism. Tourism revenue for the development of local communities can contribute towards reducing threats to the park and increasing local wealth. Although tourism is an important function of the national park, it is a weak justification for the local community living around the park, if they are not benefiting in any way other than preservation of a resource (McNeely, 1989). By linking these benefits to the protection of the MGNP, it is hoped that a change in local community attitudes to the national park and its management will be achieved.
1.4 Objective of the case study
The study was designed to provide base ecological data necessary for protection and management of the MGNP, particularly its population of mountain gorillas. Against this background, the case study had three main objectives focusing on the critically endangered mountain gorillas as flagship species, not because planning consideration was based exclusively on this species, but because of their economic significance:
1) to protect critically endangered mountain gorilla population and other wild animals of high profile in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park as part of the Greater Virunga landscape.
2) Mammals are particularly threatened by the conservation issues facing the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.
3) to engage the local communities exploit tourism opportunities in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, and be involved in management issues.
1. 5 FAUNA OF MGAHINGA GORILLA NATIONAL PARK
A total of 39 species of mammals are known to occur in the MGNP and there is evidence of 90 species believed to occur (Butynski, 1990; Williamson, 1997; IUCN, 2003). The large mammals recorded in the MGNP (Dornisthorpe, 1959; Kawai and Mizuhara, 1959; Kingston, 1971), consist of at least 11 species. Other orders of mammals represented in the MGNP are Lagomorpha, Insectivora, Rodentia, Chiroptera and Hyracoidea. Individual species in respective order are presented by Kalina (1991).
The densities of the ungulates are generally high given the nature of the forest ecosystem. Evidence of signs and sightings of Buffalo (Syncerus caffer), Black fronted duiker (Cephalophus niger), Bushbuck (Tragelaphus scriptus), Bush pig (Potamochoerus porcus), and Giant forest hog (Hylocherus meinertzhageni) that graze in open areas at night and both these habitats are available within MGNP. There are reports that Sitatunga (Tragelaphus spekii) used to live in the MGNP, but are now considered extinct (Butynski, 1990). Elephants (Loxodonta africana) have not been censured since the 1990-1994 Rwandan civil wars; however, they make extensive use of the MGNP habitat.
The only large carnivores whose presence are confirmed and often seen in the MGNP includes: the golden cat (Profelis aurata), Serval (Leptailurus serval), Leopard (Panthera pardus), Spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta), and side-stripped jackal (Canis adustus). Despite relatively low densities and their numbers could be limited by the reduction and habitat fragmentation.
The primate population includes: critically endangered mountain gorilla (Gorilla gorilla beringei), Golden monkey (Cercopithecus mitis kandti), found in the Virunga Landscape and two other forest in central African, Blue monkey (Cercopthecus mitis), sub species dogetti and schoutedeni) have all been forced in to the MGNP either by habitat destruction or whether they are a single population considered peculiar in the area (Weber, 1993; Williamson, 1997). However, the protection of the critically endangered mountain gorillas has improved considerably, since 1991, but poaching, disturbance and diseases are continuing threats. Despite significant efforts made to address some of this threats, and this has resulted to an increase of mountain gorilla population at only a 1.15% annual growth rate, as opposed to 3% annual growth rate observed in the 1980's and the growth rates predicated by computer simulations of population growth (Miller et al., 1998; Robbins & Robbins, 2004; Steklis & Gerald-Steklis, 2001).
The population of mountain gorillas using the MGNP was estimated in 1989 at about 44 individual animals in 8 groups (Nichols and Shaller, 1988). Some of the confined species are globally threatened (IUCN, 2003) and are endemic to the Albertine Rift (Table.1.1). Therefore, MGNP supports a unique endemic species, and most of these probably occur in the MGNP, as part of the Virunga Conservation Area (Williams and Arlott, 1980; Kingdon, 1973).
Table.1.1 Total number of species recorded for five Taxa in MGNP
Taxa N0. of species N0. of species suspected to occur
Mammals 39 90
Reptiles 16 28
Birds 79 185
Amphibians 11 21
Butterflies 56 102
Relatively, MGNP contains a high diversity of endemic species in the Albertine Rift, and its role in modifying local climate (Kingdon, 1973). The MGNP's high biodiversity is due to its location in transitional vegetation belts. The vegetation has adapted to this distinct climate, making three vegetation belts found on all East African mountains. The occurrence of endemic species in the locality illustrates the areas significance in the region.
A checklist compiled by Kalina (1991) presents a total of 185 species of birds recorded in the region. Whereas some of these species were recorded in Rwanda's adjacent the Parc National Des Volcans, and are yet to be recorded in MGNP, they are likely to be found in MGNP, since this is the same ecosystem (Kalina, 1991). However, MGNP record indicates 79 bird species and includes species endemic to the Parc National des Virunga - Sud in the DRC. Otherwise, over 295 species of birds have been recorded in the VCA and 16 of them are endemic to the Albertine Rift, representing (59%) of the known species (Kalina, 1991).
Twelve species in this region are endemic to the Albertine Rift (Kalina, 1991). These are: Handsome francolin ( Francolinus nobili), Ruwenzori turaco (Tauraco johnstonii), Stripe - breasted tit ( Parus fasciiventer), Archerisground robin, (Dryocichloides archeri), Red faced woodland warbler ( Phylloscopus laetus) Collared Ruwenzori apalis (Aplis ruwenzorii), Ruwenzori batis Batis drops, Regal Subird ( Nectarinia regia), Blue headed sunbird (Nectarinia alinac), Strange weaver (Ploceus alienus), Dusky Crimson- wing (Cryptospiza jacksoni), Shelley's Crimson- wing (Cryptospiza shelleyi). These species are restricted in distribution and are highly vulnerable to extinction. Grauer's Rush Warbler (Brachypterus graveri) occurs in the MGNP, and is listed as vulnerable to extinction in the IUCN Red Data Book (Kalina, 1991).
CHAPTER TWO: LITERATURE REVIEW
2.1 Threats to Status of Wild game and Resources
Historically, MGNP under went through various administrative management challenges and conservation threats, since 1930, until the late 1991 when conservation management of the MGNP was upgraded to national park status (Werike, 1991). It therefore, retained the same boundaries as original Game Sanctuary. In a national park management, all wild plants and animals are protected and the people are not allowed to live there. It is, however, believed that failure to commit the local communities to conservation of the park resulted in a significant heavy encroachment on the park's fringes, illegal harvesting of resources and poaching of wild game. After the gazettment 1991, the conservation situation improved when Uganda National Parks (UNP's) and international donors stepped in to provide infrastructure, equipments, training of human resources, biological and socio-economic research commenced. The Uganda national parks as the implementing agency for advocating local community involvement on park issues established active collaboration with the surrounding local communities, and gained their respect.
Nevertheless, conservation challenges remain with number of current threats facing the Virunga landscape and MGNP inclusive. The MGNP boundaries are not clearly demarcated and encroachment continues, although at low magnitude. The travel and smuggling of goods there are many illegal routes with their footpaths, pose a threat to biodiversity by disturbance of wildlife, poaching and by breaking up animal territories and therefore restricting free ranging patterns of wildlife in the park. Livestock grazing in the park degrades vegetation and pose a risk of disease spread into mountain gorillas and other wild populations. During this study there were observations made indicating that wild animals especially duiker and bushbuck were directly threatened by humans. Werike (1991) reports of an incident when a carcass of bushbuck was found snared. Working along side with rangers, we removed 28 snares from different parts of the park during the whole study period. These had been set to trap duikers, bushbucks and buffaloes. These do not include snares removed from the park by rangers during patrols. The snares were accidentally discovered. There were 6 incidents in which it was confirmed that some animals had been snared, and also one buffalo died of snare and the second one in dead pit.
Illegal resources removal takes place along the periphery of the park, several patches totaling approximately 1 ha cleared of grass were observed. There incidents when people carrying grass / poles and others going to collect grass or to do other illegal activities were observed inside park. This is directly destructive to the habitat of wild game and other animals of high conservation values. Werike (1991) reported on the above mentioned range of illegal activities and that they were going down by then (Table 1.2). However, grazing of livestock in the park which was evident during the first months of the study has declined mainly because of fear of arrest by rangers.
2.2 Mountain Gorilla Population
2.2.1 Mountain Gorilla
The species mountain gorilla is in third category, sub species Gorilla gorilla beringei. The species is listed in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of wild fauna and flora (1973, CITES) in class A of the African Convention on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, by IUCN standard as vulnerable to extinction (Lee, et al., 1988), and by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (1989) as endangered. The Mountain Gorilla gorilla beringei is distributed across the Albertine Rift (Schaller, 1963; Webber and Vedder, 1963). They occur in two populations, and straddle the international boundaries of Uganda, Rwanda and DRC.
The VCA population numbered about 310 gorillas in 1989 (C. Sholley, Pers. Comm.). Original estimates by Emlen and Schaller indicated approximately 400 - 500 individuals in VCA in 1959 - 1960 (Emlen and Schaller, 1960; Schaller, 1963). There have been considerable fluctuations of this population since then. These fluctuations have been primarily related to poaching, habitat loss and general human disturbance (Webber and Vedder, 1983; Aveling and Harcourt, 1984; Harcourt and Fossey, 1981; Vedder, 1989). The effects of these diminished over time although they continued to be reflected in the current population dynamics of group size and composition (Harcourt and Fossey, 1981; Vedder, 1989). There has been inadequate protection on the VCA ecosystem for many years and this has negatively impacted on the presence of gorillas in the MGNP (Goodall and Groves, 1977; Malpas and Infield, 1981; Vedder and Aveling, 1986; Aveling and Harcourt, 1984; Vedder, 1987; Butynski, 1990).
Uganda's BINP measures 321km² located roughly 25 km north of the VCA, currently holds about 320 mountain gorillas (Butynski, 1990). Of the three sub species, the mountain gorilla has the lowest numbers with roughly 630 individuals (Vedder, 1989). However, the recent survey conducted 2003, both VCA and BINP puts the to 700 animals and must be considered the most endangered in World. The IUCN (Lee, et al., 1989) lists the mountain gorilla as a sub species in danger of extinction.
The sub-specific affiliation of the BINP population is problematical, but evidence points to a closer alliance with Gorilla gorilla beringei (Vedder, 1989). Conspicuous evidence on the ground both the VCA and BINP gorilla populations are surrounded by some of the most densely settled and intensively land conversion in Africa. Thus, both are Island populations isolated from one another and from other areas of suitable ecosystems (Spinage, 1972; Butynski, 1990).
Evidence indicates that mountain gorillas avoid travelers, and that travelers pose a threat, Butynski, (1990), and the likelihood that mountain gorillas will be killed. Based on the above evidence poaching of mountain gorillas, may result to conflict with humans, and also crop depredation. Of late, crop depredation by mountain gorillas has been reported with increasing frequency in villages adjacent the park, and that it could instigate the negative attitude towards mountain gorillas and park management. Given the fact that the bulk of their diet, however, is composed of vegetable matter, including the stems, bark, fruits of Ficus spp, and bamboo shoots etc. The bamboo covers 58% of the park and provides (90%) of food diet to the mountain gorilla population (Werike, 1991). Similarly, species such as golden monkey, bushbuck, duikers and buffaloes feed on bamboo as well. The temporal and spatial variability in resource availability probably forces mountain gorillas to range over large areas, and they undertake altitudinal movements. According to Butynski (1990) noted that mountain gorillas spent (30%) of their time feeding (30%) moving while foraging, and (40%) resting. There largely considered terrestrial animals, by the fact that (90%) of their time is spent on the ground. Mountain gorillas tend to concentrate in the lush secondary growth areas of forest and disturbed areas (Pers. Obser.). Therefore, the presence of such areas results in mountain gorilla's abundance in habitat.
2.3 Tourism Development
Tourism, particularly on gorilla viewing, is a potential lucrative form of exploitation that the MGNP offers. Other tourist attractions include Golden Monkey viewing, nature trails, bird walks and mountain hiking or climbing. Arguably, it should be noted that gorilla based tourism is possibly the most difficult and sensitive form of tourism in the world as there's little scientific basis for its development. Basing the argument on its long term impact on the gorillas and the ecological ecosystem is known, and it is open to numerous a buses unless management is maintained at a high level. There is potential conflict between gorilla viewing by tourist and the survival of the mountain gorillas (see page 44). While MGNP has been protected for over five decades, Werike (1991) carried out an extensive ecological survey and found that virtually all restrictions of resource exploitation were being violated. The National Park is situated in the District of Kisoro, in a densely populated agricultural community. The area is believed to be of highest population densities in Africa. Two ethnic groups live in Kisoro District, the Banyarwanda, and the majority Batwa (Pygmies).
MGNP is part of the Albertine Rift Valley, which is characterized by high degree of avian and mammalian endemism especially famous mountain gorilla species (IUCN, 1996). Mountain gorillas rank among the rarest animals in the world with just 700 animals in existence 380 live in the Virunga landscape. Mgahinga's vegetation belts, a walk up will take you through amontane forest belt, Sub-alpine belt and finally a fromontane belt on top. Some of the belts can be split into different belts named for their dominant plant life. The distribution of the vegetation belts and zones in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is shown in ( 1.1).
The gorilla population in the Virunga declined from an estimated 400-500 animal 1960 (Schaller, 1963). The census conducted 1989 revealed about 129 mountain gorillas in Rwanda, 183 in the Democratic Republic of Congo and 12 in Uganda, totaling 324 for the entire VCA Landscape (Sholley, 1991). The gorillas in this population move between countries so that, for examples, the Uganda portion of the Virungas may at times hold about 30 plus individuals (Butynski, et al., 1990). As an emotionally appealing, high profile activity that can generate substantial revenue, and as one that appears to nicely bridge the gap between conservation and economic and social development, gorilla tourism has been an “ easy sell” to almost every one not only politicians donors and conservationists.
Gorilla tourism began in Rwanda's Parc National Des Volcans, in 1979, which guaranteed tourist sightings of free ranging gorillas, resulted in a trebling in park revenue only nine months after the start of the programme and fetched roughly $ 1 million a year, Vedder, and Weber, (1990), while in DRC, the Parc National Des Virunga - Sud, tourism picked from 1985 (Aveling and Aveling 1989).
2.4 The basis for the Conservation of MGNP
It is worth, to protect the endangered mountain gorillas and other species of significant importance including the habitat. Since MGNP acts as an island of wilderness surrounded by densely populated farmland. Let alone the resources encompassed therein and hence to meet the needs of the local indigenous community without compromising the needs of the future generation. Therefore, tourism has the potential to contribute to the needs of the indigenous community of the area as well as tourists, while protecting and enhancing opportunities for the future. Given the fact that biological and economical significance of the MGNP coupled with geographical location, therefore forms the basis for its protection and conservation of ecological biodiversity:
a) Preservation of the biological diversity and ecological well-being of Uganda's tropical forests in particular Mgahinga and Bwindi forests.
b) The MGNP being part of the Greater Virunga Landscape is home to a large variety of wildlife, including about half the world's critically endangered mountain gorillas, and golden monkeys as well as to protect other animals and plant species.
c) Political, because such magnificent landscape, and the borders of three countries Uganda, Rwanda and the DRC meet on top of mount Sabinyo. Each country has established national parks to protect the forest watersheds and wildlife of the VCA. However, the division of the volcanoes between three countries trebles their vulnerability.
d) Because of human encroachment on the forest there was need to control habitat shrinkage as people continued to encroach on mountain gorilla habitat and other animals in an effort to control soil erosion to protect the mountains, animals and vegetation. Before the park was gazetted people had cultivated along the slopes of the three mountains leaving the soils vulnerable to soil erosion.
e) To enable government protect the resources for tourism development such that, foreign exchange helps to improve on government revenue and standard of living for the locals. Forests would be protected to modify the climate condition and also act as a water catchments area. Eco-tourism approach was considered essential for increased awareness of the importance of the environment and ecological aspect of ecosystem.
2.5 Regional Opportunities for Tourism Development in the GVL
i. Economic values of the mountain gorillas and the habitat can not be over emphasized. Gorilla tourism can provide economic incentives and justification for supporting the conservation of mountain gorillas and their species rich habitats within the region.
ii. Tourism potential economic opportunity at the same time generates employment for a cross-section of people including expatriates.
iii. The capacity to attract financial support and Investment from International donor in the region.
iv. It has promoted regional co-operation among the region, and certain degree of trust between the people on the region, and at diplomatic level.
v. Political movement towards peace and reconciliation to harness the resources sustainably and in environmentally friendly manner.
CHAPTER THREE: STUDY AREA
3.1 Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is located in the extreme southwestern corner of Uganda. It is part of the Greater Virunga Landscape, which encompasses, the ‘'Virunga Conservation Area'', and includes two adjacent protected areas in Rwanda and the DRC. The MGNP measures 33.7 Km² and it comprised of the Mountains Sabinyo, Gahinga and Muhavura Volcanoes. The other part of the reason for establishing MGNP as National Park included ensuring protection of flora and fauna, increasing protection of climatic and catchment conditions, and developing a lucrative tourist attraction to earn foreign exchange from gorilla tourism.
In order to have better assessment of the study area, it was deemed necessary to sub divide the protected area into blocks (A1, A2, and A3) from East to West ( 1.2 MGNP). The TRA approach was used with objective to identify, and isolate significant threats that cause habitat destruction and conservation of critically endangered mountain gorilla population. This would provide systematic base line ecological data necessary for the protection and management of the MGNP, and in particular its biodiversity. The TRA will help gauge extend of human activities and their impact on the biodiversity.
3.2 Physical Environment
The MGNP comprises three volcanic mountains Mt. Muhavura (4,127 m), Mt. Mgahinga (3,475 m), and Mt. Sabinyo (3,645 m). The three mountains are part of the six extinct and two active volcanoes of the Virunga range extending into Rwanda and DRC. Mt. Sabinyo lies in the west and is the oldest in the chain (Spinage, 1972). Mt. Mgahinga lies to the east of Mt. Sabinyo. On Mt. Mgahinga is a swampy crater about 180 m in a diameter. To the east of Mt. Mgahinga lies Mt. Muhavura, which is considered the most recent. It forms a smooth cone with a summit lake of about 36m in diameter. It is the highest among the Virunga Volcanoes on the Uganda portion. Spinage (1972) considered the whole of the central crater, if there was one on Sabinyo, to have been eroded away.
The water resource of the area comprise numerous north flowing streams, two crater lakes on the summits of Mt. Muhavura and Mt. Mgahinga and the high altitude swamps and marshes which comprise about (2%). The summit crater on Mt. Mgahinga, which was formerly open water, is now a swamp with only small patches of open water (Kingston, 1967; Pers. Obser.).
Owing to its high rain fall, the MGNP is an important water catchment area. Streams are not large because of the steep slope and porous nature of the rock (Spinage, 1972). The swamps in the two saddles hold water all year around. All these streams and many other smaller ones, have the highest flows in the wet season (September to May) and dry up completely, except for the Kabiranyuma stream, in the dry season (June to August).
3.2.3 Geology and Soil
The three mountains probably appeared in the early to mid-Pleistocene with the up thrust of Mt. Sabinyo, rising steeply from the folded Urundian system of Rwanda, and appearing to occupy an east west line of weakness just to the edge of the Western Rift Valley. This weakness seems to have developed after the Rift Valley had assumed its present shape in the early Pleistacene (Spinage, 1972).
These mountains are of the central type having been built by the piling up of successive lava flows, parts of which are extremely ashy, and layer of cinder. Each Mt. constitutes a separate lava flow whilst a Pleistocene boulder deposits lies in the pass between mountains Sabinyo and Mgahinga. In August 1957, earth tremors and lava flows were recorded on the DRC side of Mt. Sabinyo, previously thought to be extinct (Kingston, 1967). Coombe and Simons (1933) describe these lavas on the mountains as follows; Sabinyo ---Andesite, Mgahinga --- Tracytei Leucite Basanite and Muhavura ---- Limburgites and Trachytic Leucite Basanites.
Harrop (1960) classified the soils of the MGNP as being the Sabinyo complex. Between 2,280 m and 2,440 m the soils change from brown color characteristic of the plains to almost black and, in the undisturbed state, appear peaty. There is soil zoning according to elevation. Soils on these mountains are all dark colored. Increases of organic matter content are not so apparent in the field (Kingston, 1967). Soil depth varies considerably with relief on steep slopes. Soils in the Alpine zone resemble those of the upper slopes of Mt. Elgon (Kingston, 1967).
The rain fall regime in this region is characterized by two wet and two dry seasons but June and July are most severe. There is minor dry period in December to February. The wettest months are March to April and September to November. At the highest altitudes, it rains almost daily except for the months of June and July (Spinage, 1972). Records for Mt. Kilimanjaro (Salt, 1954) and Mt. Kenya (Coe, 1967), show that rain fall increases with increasing altitude up to about 2500 m and the declines rapidly with further increase in altitude.
Spinage (1972) contends that this is dependent upon the temperature lapse rate and not upon altitude itself. Records maintained on Mt. Karisimbi in the Virunga Volcanoes show that rain fall declines considerably to 990 mm or possibly less at the summit. However, this is at a much slower rate of decline than Salt's (1954) s showed for Mt. Kilimanjaro. Spinage (1972) suggests that this might indicate that Virungas are in a wetter region. Rain fall in the Virungas is probably much higher (Dornisthorpe, 1959; Schaller, 1963). Hail storms are frequent on the mountain ranges.
The driest months are June and July, marked by extremely dry vegetation. During the dry season, the atmosphere becomes hazy, shrouding the mountains (Dornisthorpe, 1959). Miller (1961) stated that during the dry season, hot dry winds blow into the interior of the African continent from the deserts. This wind often comes laden with dust which combines with the smoke of fire, results in hazy conditions. Winds blow westwards, changing direction to the south east during the dry season. Spinage (1972) reports that records from the Rwandan side of the Virunga Volcanoes show that temperatures range from 4 ⁰C (Alpine, 3,650, to 4, 507m) to 18 ⁰C (Montane woodland, 1800 to 2,300m). The Alpine zone is particularly covered with mist and sometimes temperatures fall below freezing point. Hail storms occur often, particularly at high elevations (Kalina, 1993; and Pers. Comm.).
The vegetation of the MGNP comprises both Montane and afro-alpine flora. The latter is rather poor in species but quite distinct from the flora in the surrounding lower country. Kalina (1991) recorded 276 plant species in the MGNP. The descriptions of vegetation in the MGNP as given by Hedberg (1951), Schaller (1963), and Kingston (1967) vegetation of MGNP Uganda portion of the Virunga Volcanoes, Source (Schaller, 1963; Kingston, 1967) is summarized in (1.1) as follows:
3.3.1 Montane Forest Belt
This consists of the Montane woodland zone, Bamboo zone and Hagenia Hypericum zone. The Montane woodland is the lowest belt of vegetation. It consists of open forest with dense ground flora, herbs and vines. The more common tree species Myrica salicifolia, Dovyalis abyssinica, Bessana abyssinica, Nuxiacongesta and occasionally Hypericua lanceolatua. Hypericum and Hagenia mixed with Rapanea melanophoeos grow up to about 3190m on Mt. Sabinyo.
3.3.2 Sub-alpine Belt
This belt comprises the Ericaceous and moorland (Sub-alipne) belt. The Ericaceous belt is dominated by Phillipia johnstonii (tree heath) reaching a height of 6 to 9 m. These are heavily laden with Usnea lichens on their stems and branches. The ground flora is composed of grasses, orchids, mosses, lichens and liverworts (Kalina, 1991).
On Mt. Sabinyo, this belt occurs immediately above the montane woodland. On Mt. Mgahinga, it occurs on the inside as well as on the edge of the crater. However, inside the crater of Mt. Mgahinga, this belt is mixed with the moorland belt. The moorland belt is transitional belt. It is also referred to as the sub-alpine belt. Plant species important in this belt are Phillipia johnstonii, Alchmilla spp, Helichrysu spp, Senecio ericirosenii, Senecio adolvalis, Altiola lobelia wollastonii and Lobelia stuhlanii, Rapanea pulchra occurs in this belt as a shrub, Phillipia johnstonii reaches a height of about 1.5m. The montane grassland on Mt. Muhavura is also included in this belt. It is to some extent, being colonized by moorland species.
3.3.3 Alpine Belt
This belt reaches its maximum development on Mt. Muhavura and Sabinyo where there is an alpine moorland vegetation of Alchenilla johnstonii, mosses, and grasses, Lobelia eninii and Helichrysua tormosissinua together with Festuca abyssinica, Paa annua, P. leptoclada, P. schimperiana and Deschampsia flexuosa grasses are important species in this belt.
3.4 The Greater Virunga Landscape
3.4.1 Virunga Conservation Area
The Greater Virunga Landscape (GVL) stretches from the Virunga Volcanoes in the south, on the borders of Uganda, Rwanda and the DRC. The Virunga Conservation Area (VCA) measures 447 km² is composed of three National Parks each located in a different country's. The Parc National Des Volcans, 160 km² in Rwanda, the Parc National Des Virunga - sud, 240 km² in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park 33.7km² in Uganda ( 1.3). The MGNP comprises of the Virunga Conservation Area Landscape and is the unique natural a fromontane forest left in the region. Therefore, the forest ecosystem has been undergoing intensive destruction through illegal utilization of its resources. However, the Virunga landscape have a surprising variety of rare, endemic and endangered species of animals and plant life, and the landscape offers magnificent scenery, which commands excellent view.
The MGNP and BINP is recognized both regional and internationally for immense conservation significance containing rare and endangered species some spilling over from the Virunga landscape (Butynski, 1990; Anon, 1994). On face of it, gorilla tourism appears to be the center of tourism attraction to view the habituated gorillas which started in 1993. With objective of generating revenue to support the conservation of the mountain gorillas and other related wildlife species.
Tourism has been recognized as key player in the conservation of the mountain gorillas and other endangered great apes in Africa (Weber, 1993; McNeely, 1989). It is a business, which has considerably generated revenue and publicity for Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, which protect the famous mountain gorillas. According to Weber (1993), he pointed out that, gorilla tourism is a component of comprehensive sustainable management program in the four protected areas harboring mountain gorilla population. With the global interest in wildlife increasing, UWA has an opportunity to develop revenue from tourism.
The Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (BINP) is located about 25km to the North of the VCA landscape, and covers approximately 321 km² within Kabale, Kisoro and Rukungiri Districts (1.4). It lies along the border with Sarambwe Forest Reserve in the DRC. Literally, Bwindi forest is the largest remaining tract of natural forest in southwest Uganda and may represent one of the last opportunities to conserve a sample of the rich flora and fauna, which once dominated the region (Butynski, 1984). The BINP is the only forest in East Africa, where contiguous forest vegetation extends from 1,160 to 2,600 m encompassing lowland, transitional, and montane forests suitable for mountain gorillas and providing a unique environs for many rare and endemic species (Butynski, 1984).
The BINP therefore, holds about 320 critically endangered mountain gorillas, which live in this protected area (Butynski and Kalina, 1993). The Virunga Conservation Area Landscape exists as an ecological Island completely surrounded by intensive cultivation coupled with; the threats to conservation come from all sides of the borders (Anon, 1994; Williamson, et al,. 1997). Conservation is increasingly becoming more of a social challenge than a biological as human activities increase, the disparity of wealth grows, and illegal removal of resources within the protected area continues (McNeely, 1989). Conflict between PA's and local community will increase as the surrounding natural resource base is depleted, and the mountain gorilla habitat is under pressure due to human activities.
The mountain gorilla's status as an endangered species puts it in a precarious position arising out of increased habitat loss. While there were no observations to the effect that mountain gorillas are hunted or trapped in MGNP for consumption or trade or otherwise, snares continue to be set to catch Duikers and Bushbucks etc. The pattern of setting is such that they are spread allover the park including high elevations (Pers. Obser., and rangers, Pers. Comm.). Mountain gorillas can accidentally be trapped in such conditions, and are prone to being caught in snares which have been otherwise set to catch Duikers, Bushbucks and Giant forest hog (Werike, 1991). During this survey, a snare that had a limb of Duiker that had been trapped accidentally, and had been decomposed was observed. This suggests that an intensive search may lead to the discovery of far more snares.
Traditionally management approaches for protected areas have their challenges, but have also proved their effectiveness in protecting largely core biodiversity values. The involvement of local communities in protected area management approaches may also provide new dimensions, but their limitation must be recognized (Jacobsen, 1991; McNeely, 1989). However, the nature of the approach largely depends on the setting of the protected area, and it is in the discretion of the manager on the ground to modify and adapt intervention based on sound scientific information and taking into consideration both the legal frame work and the interest of the local communities as basis for benefits to all.
3.3 Policy on local community participation
Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) policy provides room for local community participation share benefits, such as tourism services, employment opportunities, and sustainable harvesting of certain resources in the park through Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the park management and the local communities. Uganda is currently in a very dynamic period of institutional reform, and has advanced further than Rwanda and the DRC in the area of environmental legislation and Policy.
A number of operational Policies and procedures have been developed, there is still more to be done. In recognition of the need to provide benefits to the people, UWA has developed a policy on revenue sharing to assist in implementing the (20%) of gate collection to the local communities adjacent the protected area through local administration around the PA's. As one of the requirements for the sustainable use of wildlife species to benefit the local community surrounding the protected area, and that there are positive economic incentives for the people living near frontline that affected by the protected area, and at the same time also impact the Park. There are now some efforts to ensure that the economic benefits from gorilla tourism are divided more equitably among people living in the vicinity of the protected areas. Each country within the Albertine Rift has a distinct framework for environmental protection and natural resources management. Therefore, it is imperative to harmonies these policies in the Virunga landscape, since both countries hold significant number of similar species for effective protection and landscape.
CHAPTER FOUR: MATERIAL AND METHODS
4.1 Data Collection
Generally, primary and secondary data were used for purposes of this study.
4.2 Materials for data collection
The primary data was collected by use of Maps and Global Position System (GPS) as part of materials used to generate the data among others.
4.3 Secondary data collection
The information on the wildlife of MGNP was obtained from technical reports and published documents, research reports and General Management Plan (GMP). The review of these documents also provided comprehensive information about MGNP and conservation of critically endangered mountain gorilla population. Most of the secondary data were obtained from the MGNP and ITFC for mammal's documentation. Similarly, field observations were used to detect threats, and also more information was obtained from the Parc National Des Volcans and Parc National Des Virunga in the DRC. However, conventional methods which have been tested through time by cross-section of field scientists were also applied in this survey to achieve the set objectives.
Mountain gorilla surveys have been carried out since early 1989 in the whole of the Virunga landscape that comprise MGNP, Parc National Des Volcans and the Parc National Des Virunga - sud (Schaller, 1963; Scholley, 1991; Butynski and Kalina, 1993). Some were considered highly focused and structured, others were largely opportunistic. Such data is hard to digest, but is considered a critical tool for conservation management of the park and the mountain gorilla populations.
These study lasted several weeks, and included standard methodologies such as direct observations, interpretation of signs and discussion with local communities. The ITFC reported extensively on the MGNP fauna and flora (Butynski, 1990; Williamson, 1997). In 2003 ITFC in collaboration with UWA and International Gorilla Conservation Programme (IGCP) conducted intensive gorilla census and biodiversity survey, but mostly targeted species of significant conservation values. These have been valuable in establishing the presence of several species in MGNP. This information on biodiversity, key species human population and conflicts were used as aid to management interests.
Additional descriptive information relating to conservation threats to mountain gorillas was gathered through consultative discussion with leaders, researchers at ITFC and local community surrounding the MGNP.
4.5 Data Analysis
The quantitative data obtained from the field was first coded, then data entry process was done using an appropriate computer package such as ‘'Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS), which facilitates the process of data analysis in a more precise and appropriate way (SPSS, 1999). The ten step Threat Reduction Assessment (TRA) approach was also employed to compute the Threat Reduction Assessment Index (TRI). Furthermore, to analyze what 100% reduction means for each threat. Similarly, to determine the degree to which each threat has been reduced. Microsoft Excel was also used for producing descriptive statistics in form of bars diagrams and tabular form.
4.6 Limitation of the study
v Time constraint from the research point of view every study needs sufficient time to explore and find ground state reality relating to the specific field of study. The duration of the study was relatively insufficient to discover the optimum amount of data for analysis.
v Due to the poor record keeping it was difficult to collect the data or access relevant data for illegal activities and natural resources that relates to use by local communities.
v The vegetation was quite dense with bamboo canopy, and therefore, limited observation and detection of certain signs of animals.
CHAPTER FIVE: RESULTS AND DISCUSSUION
5.1 Threat Reduction Assessment Approach
The TRA approach is widely considered the most realistic method of isolating pertinent threats hindering to achieve conservation of critically endangered mountain gorilla population and its ecological biodiversity. The TRA was employed to reveal the magnitude of conservation threats during the case study. The threats in this are measured using TRA developed in 2001 by the Biodiversity Support Program. The TRA for Conservation by Margolius and Salafsky (2001), places more emphasis on identifying significant threats to the conservation of biodiversity. The approach produces the TRA index (TRAI), a summary indicator of the degree to which a management has succeeded in reducing the threats in the national park. This index is the result of identifying threats, ranking them according to specific criteria and assessing the progress in reducing each of them.
The advantage of TRA approach is that, it is more sensitive to changes over short-term period and this makes it relevant to this study. The identified threats were ranked according to specific criteria and subsequent assessment of each of them for TRA index. These threats have been considered among those with dynamic influence that cause significant impact on ecological ecosystems of the park, and were considered major threat both in terms of intensity and urgency (Table 1.2).
First and foremost, threats are taken to be those dynamic influences that cause some degree of impact or pressure to the ecological biodiversity. These threats were categorized as:
1) Internal direct threats: Factors that have a direct impact on biodiversity and are caused by activities of humans living at the vicinity of MGNP (e.g. agricultural practices or such as poaching of the mammals by some local people.
2) External direct threat: Factors that have a direct impact on biodiversity and are caused by outsiders such as charcoal burning by people, and illegal removal of resources from protected area.
3) Indirect threats: Social, political, and economic factors that induce changes in the direct threat, such as threats exacerbated by poverty.
Secondly, unlike the biological approach, which is restricted in the data it can use data collected through biological techniques and or social science techniques, such as key informant interviews, review of management intervention and participatory rural appraisal (PRA) tools to assess the impact of any project on social economic and ecological aspects. This also qualifies it to be as suitable technique for the study of this nature.
Thirdly, TRA approach is a low-cost alternative compared to more cost and time consuming biological approaches. It is based on data that are collected through simple techniques, directly related to management interventions and readily interpreted by the managers of the protected area or implementer of the project. This led to the ten (10) step analysis in order to calculate a TRA index. In this case, the TRA designed worksheets were used to collect the data using the fundamental steps described below:
5.1.1 STEP I: Definition of the study area in space and time
The study area MGNP was sub divided into three blocks (A1, A2 and A3) for better assessment using TRA approach (1.2). The total area of these blocks measures (33.7) km², representing (7.5%) of the VCA as part of a much larger ecosystem, which hold the famous mountain gorilla populations in the three protected areas MGNP in Uganda, Parc National Des Volcans in Rwanda and Parc National Des Virunga in DRC. These blocks represent critically endangered mountain gorilla populations has been confirmed in most of them, as determined in ecological survey conducted by Werike (1991). This case study commenced on October, 1st 2003, and ends December, 31st 2003.
5.1.2 STEP II: Developing a list of all direct threats
Through the use of quantitative methodology as an appropriate tool the case study managed to came up with the direct threats to biodiversity that exist at the MGNP, since its establishment (1991) as national park. As a result of the study we came up with more than five threats and this threat were prioritized to a maximum of five threats based on the scale magnitude.
Table 1.2 Key threats identified in block A1, A2 and A3 during the assessment
Threats Affected Blocks Description of habitat
Traveling A1 - A2 Open forest, Bamboo and Montane forest
Livestock grazing A1 - A3 Woodland, dense bamboo & Montane forest
Poaching A1 - A3 Woodland, dense bamboo forest&subalpine
Fire A1 - A3 Grassland, woodland dominant & bamboo
5.1.3 STEP III: Defining the threats and what 100% Reduction means.
Defined each threat according to its magnitude, and what 100% reduction of the threat meant
5.1.4 STEP IV: Ranking each Threat for Area
After all threats from block A1 - A2 had been identified; they were ranked based on the following three criteria: 1) Area, 2) Intensity 3) Urgency, based on the assessment.
- First the threats were ranked based on area, which is defined as the sub divided blocks (habitat) that is affected by the threat.
- Then review the list of the threats and ranked them in the order of the amount of the blocks (habitats) affected.
- The highest number was assigned to the threat that affected the greatest area and the lowest number, 1 to the threat that affected the smallest area.
5.1.5 STEP V: Ranking each Threat for Intensity
Passing through the same stages in step IV, threats were ranked for intensity criterion. Intensity is defined as the impact or severity of destruction caused by the threat. Within the overall area, will the threat completely destroy the habitat(s) or will it cause only minor changes? Again the largest number was assigned to the most intense threats and the smallest for the least intense threat.
5.1.6 STEP VI: Ranking each Threat for Urgency
Following instructions in step IV the threats were also ranked for third and last criterion, urgency, which is defined as the immediacy of the threat. Is it a current threat? Will it occur only in long term e.g. 25 years from now? Again the highest number was assigned to the threat that was considered to be the most urgent and continued on down to a ranking of No. 1 to less urgent threat.
5.1.7 STEP VII: Adding up the Ranking Scores
The three rankings (Area, Intensity and Urgency) were added across columns to arrive at a total ranking for each of the three threats that were identified. The total rankings were then written in the column headed Total Ranking. They added up numbering in the total ranking column to determine the combined total ranking. This number was as the number of the total sum for area, intensity and urgency (Tables 1.3 - 1.5).
5.1.8 STEP VIII: Determining of the degree to which each threat has been reduced
Based on the definition of (100%) threat reduction (Step III), the degree to which each threat had been reduced as a result of human activities was determined.
Quantitative measurements were only used in measuring the area of impact and tree cutting for charcoal and removal of resources, whereas qualitative measurement was used in gauging the intensity and urgency which mainly depended on the magnitude of the threat or impact. The degree to which the threat had been reduced was then expressed as a percentage that represents the proportion of the original threat as identified. The degree threat reduced was recorded in the column headed percentage threat reduced.
5.1.9 STEP IX: Calculating the Raw Score
The raw score for each threat was calculated. This was done by multiplying the total ranking for each threat by the percentage threat reduced (determined in step XIII). However the percentage was expressed in form of decimals in this calculation in order to get a raw calculation. After the calculation of the raw score for all threats identified and prioritized, a total raw score was then determined by adding all the raw scores. This total raw score was then used in the final calculation of TRA index in Step X.
5.1.10 STEP X: Calculating the TRA Index
This was done by dividing the total raw score (from step IX by the total ranking (from step VII). The TRA index was then expressed in percentage form. The Calculation of the final TRA index completed the assessment of the impact on the park ecosystem. To get the overall performance level of the management in the study area, an average of TRA for the blocks was calculated.
The ranking of these priority threats varied from block to block as indicated in (Table 1.3 - 1.5). Unlike block A2 and A3 where we identified the five threat as increased activity, which was responsible for increased destruction of the ecological habitat resulting from illegal removal of resources from the national park. However this threat was dropped during the prioritization process and thus never appeared in the first four key threats:
The assessment defined the (100%) reduction for threat (i) traveling through the national park was defined as no traveling through the park as a threat to the conservation of the MGNP biodiversity. This activity affects vegetation and frightens way mountain gorillas from their ranging habitats and in accordance with Uganda Wildlife Act Cap 200 of 2000.
One hundred percentage (100%) reduction for threat (ii) livestock grazing within the national park was largely defined as no grazing in the protected area. That considered potential threat of diseases spreading to mammals especially the (mountain gorilla populations).
One hundred percentage (100%) reduction for threat (iii) poaching for subsistence use were defined as no poaching of mammals in the MGNP. That is traditionally, poachers depending on the bush meat as sources for protein and to meet part of their economic needs.
One hundred percentage (100%) reduction for threat (iv) fire was defined as no fires in the national park. That largely considered as a potential threat to ecological habitat of the mountain gorilla populations.
One hundred percentage (100%) reduction for threat (v) removal of resources were defined as no disturbance of ecological resources / habitat. That is any resources deemed necessary for the local community to access can be granted through use of MoU in accordance with UWA Policy.
Table 1.3 Threat Reduction Assessment index for Block A1
Threat Threat levels ranging from (1- 5)
___________________________________________________________ Area Intensity Urgency Total ranking %reduction Raw score
Travel 3 2 3 8 10 8.0
Livestock 2 3 2 7 30 2.1
Poaching 4 4 4 12 5 0.6
Fire 1 1 1 3 2 0.06
_Total_______10____ 10____ 10_________ 30_________ _- _____ 3.56_
Raw Score = Total ranking for each threat x %threat reduction. TRA index = Total raw score / Total ranking = 3.56/30 =0.119 =11.9%
On the face of it block A1 on the assessment ranked the commercial poaching for key species as the most serious threat to biodiversity conservation in terms of area, intensity and urgency that the management was trying to address. It was also imperative to point out that, travel through the national park some time is associated with removal of resources, and was also considered serious in terms of intensity, while the significant impact was notable in terms of the affected area and urgency (immediacy of the threat) (Table 1.3).
The relative success of block A1 scored (11.9%) this was based on the management efforts in trying to mitigate the threat affecting the conservation of biodiversity in the protected area. Otherwise, block A1 recorded tremendous increase in poaching, compared to block A2 and A3 in terms of area and intensity on the ecological habitat. This could have risen probably due to the laxity of law enforcement patrol efforts in policing the protected area.
Table 1.4 Threat Reduction Assessment index for Block A2
Threat Threat levels ranging from (1- 5)
___________________________________________________________ Area Intensity Urgency Total ranking %reduction Raw score
Travel 4 3 3 10 80 8.0
Livestock 3 1 1 5 10 0.5
Poaching 2 4 4 10 40 4.0
Fire 1 2 2 5 50 2.5
_Total_______10____ 10____ 10_________ 30 -________ _15.0_
Raw score= Total ranking for each threat x %threat reduction. TRA index =Total raw Sore /Total ranking=15/30 = 0.5 = 50%
This was basically so because of the nature of poaching tools (pitfalls and snares) used by poachers and absolute number of animals affected. Traveling through the protected area, livestock grazing, fire and removal of resources was also a notable threat in terms of area because it seriously affected the ecological habitat for the critically endangered mountain gorillas and other wildlife species, which inhabit in the forest. Based on the threat reduction assessment, block A2 scored (50%) as relative success in terms of management intervention in addressing the threats (Table 1.4).
In block A3 poaching in the park was ranked the highest in terms of area and urgency followed by livestock grazing, and travels through the national park associated with removal of resources, which was very serious as far as the intensity of the threat was, concerned (Table 1.5). Therefore the management success in addressing the threats to biodiversity conservation scored (38%). This is because of the dynamic factors aforementioned above with significant influence on the ecological biodiversity.
Table 1.5 Threat Reduction Assessment index for Block A3
Threat Threat levels ranging from (1- 5)
_______________________________________________________________________ Area Intensity Urgency Total ranking %reduction Raw score
Travel 2 2 3 7 20 1.40
Livestock 3 4 2 9 60 5.40
Poaching 4 3 4 11 40 4.40
Fire 1 1 1 3 5 0.15
_Total_______10____ 10____ 10_________ 30_________ _- _____ 11.35_
Raw Score = Total ranking for each threat x %threat reduction. TRA index = Total raw score / Total ranking11.35/30 =0.38 =38%
The magnitude of threats varied significantly between the study blocks. Certain threats were not recorded in A3, since they were considered minor, however, four of the threats identified in the three blocks were significantly more frequent in A2 and A3 (Table 1.2). The variation in the scores from A1 - A3 was as a result of the magnitude of the impact on the ecological biodiversity ( 1.5 and Table 1.6).
The overall average score of the intervention success was found to be (33.3%). This implies that according to the assessment, the management was able to address (33.3%) of the targeted ecological threats of travel, livestock grazing, poaching, and fire as indicated in (Table 1.6). These blocks represent critically endangered mountain gorilla habitat, and the occurrence of mountain gorillas. These blocks actually represent (7.5%) of the VCA as part of a much larger ecosystem, which includes two adjacent protected areas in Rwanda and DRC.
Table 1.6 Summary of TRA index for the study Area
HABITAT BLOCKS TRA (% AGE) LOCATION
Block A1 11.9 Kazibakye
Block A2 50.0 Garama
Block A3 38.0 Kabiranyuma
The habitat blocks were scanned thoroughly walked to detect threats, while looking for fresh evidence of poaching, footpaths, fires, livestock grazing, and therefore provided an excellent opportunity to collect data on other mammals. Consequently, while assessing the blocks, signs of other large mammals and human activities were being recorded. The TRA data sheets were used to ensure consistent data collection between and the location of each sign or sighting was recorded as a grid reference, using a GPS. For elephants, buffalo, giant forest hog and carnivores, dung piles were recorded, with the species, and age category for all dung piles encountered (“new” being 0-3 days, “old” 4 or more days). Dung was not recorded for monkeys, duikers and bushbuck, as these were relatively common, and visibility of dung varies greatly with location, weather and vegetation so that it is not a useful indicator of abundance. For human activities, all signs seen were recorded, with the location and age category of each (“recent” < 3 months, “old” being > 3 months). Such signs included antelope, buffalo and snares, pitfall traps, human paths and tracks, poachers' actual sightings of poachers, livestock grazing, and any other sign of people using the forest illegally.
In addition, most blocks have some degree of internal disturbance caused by human threats. The effect of this type of disturbance is increasingly affecting a large proportion of the park, and may further reduce habitat suitability for mountain gorilla populations and other species endemic to the region. The mountain gorillas probably use forest habitat at different altitudes in different proportions, and in different seasons. The TRA did not distinguish forest types, but most of the blocks have similar forest ecosystem considered ideal and suitable habitat for mountain gorillas.
The TRA analysis in block A1 reflect tremendous increase of the threat, probably explained by the proximity of populated villages to the Eastern part of the national park. The MGNP is one of the protected areas that protect significant population of critically endangered mountain gorillas in the VCA, and among the unique afromontane forest in the region. It falls within the Albertine Rift and harbors rare, and endemic species considered relatively of high conservation values. This suggests that park could play an important role in the conservation of these species both at the regional / international level and that it protects a diversity of species. The protection of populations at the edge of their range is important for the conservation of the genetic diversity of species (Pector, 2003).
5.2 Patrol Record Results
The results obtained from the ranger based monitoring (RBM) records being a tool for park management, which utilizes rangers on patrol to collect data on threats (illegal activities), key species of animals and plants using the Global Position System (GPS) for locations. The RBM data sheets provided the information on the arrests and snares collected by the rangers under law enforcement department (LED), which formed part of the data. The frequency of snares summarized from patrol records (Table1.7).
Table 1.7. The data on snares is summarized based on poachers groups
Range of snares per group Frequency of snares % Score
1-10 22 40.0
11-20 12 22.2
21-30 11 20.3
>40 9 16.6
Total 54 99.1
The results indicates that, poaching using snares poses significant threat to the park, and the snares confiscated are shared within a group. Therefore some parameters are better expressed on the basis of a group rather than individuals. The numbers of snares per poaching group ranged from 1 - 10 according to the patrol data records. Smaller group of poachers from 4 - 6 were more frequently arrested with snares in the MGNP (Table1.8).
Poaching with snares is the most immediate threat to wild game and mainly to the mountain gorillas and other species of conservation value. This is due to increasing human population around the MGNP boundaries especially in block A3 where most of the snares came from (Rangers Pers. Comm.). The people neighboring the MGNP, especially those from the areas such as Nyakagezi village and Gisozi Parish etc are considered traditional hunters.
The number of snares collected per month by patrol rangers varies widely averaging as low as 11 in August and peaks up in October ( 1.6). Signifying the fact that, snare setting is more or less present in all months of the year, but is at the peak in the wet season. This corresponds closely to the pattern of rain fall, which peaks in March, April and September to November. One interpretation of this correlation is that it is easier to locate snares in the wet season, because at that time, poachers' tracks are more easily detected in the dew. It is also interesting to note that, in December snare collection trend falls as the dry season begins. Therefore poachers choose not to set snares so frequently during the drier season between June and July perhaps they find it hard to see animals' tracks, and therefore can not set snares so effectively.
Snares are now being set in thicker vegetation and more difficult locations, due to seasonal variation. Evidence indicates that the rate of snare recovering from the park by patrol is falling considerably. For example, the numbers of snares collected from January to June records indicate a decline in trend. This raises possibility that poachers have started to use other techniques to make it harder for their snares to be collected by patrol rangers.
Table 1.8. The summarized frequency distribution of poachers groups
Arrested poachers per group Frequency of poachers %Scores
________________________________________________________________________1-3 39 75.0
4-6 10 19.2
7-9 2 3.8
> 10 1 1.9
Total 52 99.9
Table 1.8, shows patrol records summary of poachers arrested and the data was organized according to groups for better analysis. Among others, it shows the number of poachers arrested from different parts of the protected area. The poachers arrested were organized in group sizes ranging from 1 - 10 individuals with score of (75%) being the highest, and the lowest with (1.9%) respectively. Small organized groups of 1 - 3 or 4 - 6 persons or individuals were very common, and often from the same village move quietly and carefully through the forest leaving no evidence of their presence to avoid patrol rangers from detecting the snares or catching them. Mountain gorillas are at high risk of being caught by the snares because of their preference to traveling through animal or man made trails. Otherwise these data however, need to be treated cautiously for there is need for further verification.
Available evidence suggests that, threats described above poses a direct impact to wildlife, and in particular species of high conservation values such as the mountain gorillas, golden monkeys and elephants are being targeted although there was no evidence to support this statement, however, the threat is likely to occur for commercial purposes. Consequently, the poaching of species of high conservation values seems to be related to growing economic wealth, although it might be associated with poverty (Pers. Obser.). The violation of the Wildlife Act Cap.200 of 2000, appears to have generally been on the increase since 1997 (1.6), despite a substantial improvement in the socio-economic status of the local community surrounding the park. Otherwise
the period between 1998 - 2000 recorded tremendous increase of illegal activities in the park, and this trend was associated with inadequate ranger force coupled with logistical support. In subsequent years the rangers force was re-organized motivated, and necessary equipments were provided. The management therefore, realized positive results despite minor resource removal at the periphery of the park were still evident. Although, the underlying threats largely contributed to shrinking habitat and probably causes of wildlife population decline.
5.3 Causes of Population changes
The distribution of gorillas in the VCA has largely been discussed by several authors (e.g. Schaller, 1963; Groom, 1973; Harcourt and Curry-Lindahl, 1979; Harcourt and Fossey, 1981; Webber and Vedder, 1983, Vedder, 1984). Dornisthorpe (1959) proposed that changes in habitat utilization appear to be related to different food or changes of climate rather than food shortages. The available data by Vedder (1984) support the prediction that total abundance and distribution of quality foods (i.e. highly protein food and food diversity) are likely to be influential in determining ranging patterns. Occasional movement of gorillas in the sub alpine and Alpine belt is probably partly attributable to this factor. Even during Dornisthorpe (1959) study, there was apparently a good year around food supply, but during the dry season much longer daily movements were made up the slopes into the Alpine belt. Due to the small size of the area and low coverage of preferred vegetation types (Montane woodland and Hagenia hypericua) particularly on Muhavura and Mgahinga, these 27 km² may not be capable of supporting a resident population of gorillas (Butynski, 1990).
The negative impact on gorillas by poaching and uncontrolled human exploitation of their habitat is well documented (Groom, 1973; Goodall and Groves, 1977, Dixson, 1981; Harcourt and Fossey, 1981; Wolfei, 1983; Aveling and Harcourt, 1984; Vedder, 1987; Vedder, 1989b). While no gorilla was poached during this study, four wire snares were recovered. It is widely believed that poaching of gorillas may have been responsible for drastic decline in 1960's and 1970's especially during a period of heightened civil disturbance in DRC (Webber and Vedder, 1981; Vedder, 1989a).
5.4 Impact of human Threats
Most of the travelers through the MGNP are smugglers. Groom (1973) reported a total of 10-20 smugglers traversing every 0.5 hour along the illegal foot paths over the Mountains Sabinyo and Mgahinga saddle between Uganda and Rwanda. During the first half of this study, I noted an average of 24 persons passing per day on this same foot path. Compared to Groom's (1973) , the number had reduced considerably. This reduction is probably related to an increase in law enforcement operations, and of course dominated almost very part of the park. A further increase in man power strengthen the ranger force on the ground, coupled with additional operational support and close supervision reduced the rate of smuggling/movement in the park by (98%) as of December,2003.
The noise made by smugglers, the fires lit and vegetation cut down frighten a way mammals, especially the mountain gorillas, which are sensitive to human activities (Goodall and Grooves, 1977). The MGNP remains humid and moist for most of the year. Otherwise, fires set by smugglers would have destroyed much larger portions of the MGNP. It is clear that, about (92%) of all footpaths traverse the gorilla range. It was suggested (Goodall and Groove's, 1977; Harcourt, et al., 1983) that erratic presence of gorillas in MGNP is partly due to this kind of disturbance.
Although in Rwanda's the Parc National Des Volcans traversing is not allowed (J.Nizeyi, Pers. Comm.), for some reason the Rwanda government has relaxed the enforcement of this regulations. Until the Rwanda government observes this regulation, infringement by smugglers in the MGNP and the Parc National Des Volcans, will continue to frustrate conservation efforts in the VCA. Cross-border threats, MGNP shares borders with two other countries. Events in their adjoining parks affect Mgahinga's resources, and regional collaboration is necessary to enforce park laws against offenders and any threats from other countries.
5.4.2 High human population
High human population, there about 300 local communities per km² living out side the Virunga Conservation Area landscape, and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park has become ‘' an Island in a sea of rural farmers'' whose (3.5%) annual growth rate means that their numbers double every 22 years (Butynski, and Kalina, 1993). Most of the Virunga's Landscape in past were severely affected by human pressure. Though this has now been reclaimed, it will take many decades for the cleared woodland to regenerate.
5.4.3 Livestock grazing
Livestock grazing in the MGNP is at a much lower level compared to past years (Rangers Pers. Comm.). However, incursions into the MGNP are likely to increase because grazing land in the surrounding villages is over utilized by livestock and under intensive cultivation (Pers. Obser.) Livestock grazing is destructive feeding (Field, 1968, Musoke, 1980). Sheep and goats consume vegetable matter within reach (Etoori, 1986). Destruction of vegetation by cattle is reported in the VCA (Curry-Lindahl, 1969; Harcourt and Fossey, (1981). Harcourt and Fossey (1981) associated the less healthy state of the eastern sub population of Gorillas with greater density of man and cattle.
Grazing and trampling reduce the forest floor's permeability and enhance storm flow, especially on tropical volcanic soils (Spinage, 1972). Beside vegetation destruction and disturbance, livestock incursions in the MGNP pose a serious threat of diseases transmission to wild animals e.g. Bushbuck and Buffalo act as reservoir of disease like trypanosomiasis which continued re-infection livestock occurs (Towner, 1985; Etoori, 1986). In Queen Elizabeth National Park (QENP), it was found that tuberculosis in Buffalo, Warthog and Elephants originated in domestic cattle (Etoori, 1986).
Human population is also at risk because tuberculosis, trypanosomiasis and Schistosomiasis infected meat, can all be contracted from domestic animals affects wildlife in protected areas (Musoke, 1980).
Gauging by the type of snares recovered from the MGNP indicates that dead animals are entangled, and information from park rangers point s that target animals include Buffalo, Duiker, Bushbuck, Giant forest hog and Golden monkey (Table1.7). These are poached basically for meat, and this meat is commonly sold around the villages bordering the MGNP and in areas of Bunagana (Pers. Obser.). The park rangers assured me that only Congolese and Pygmies eat Monkey meat, and not the Bufumbira or the Banyarwanda.
5.4.5 Category of Mammal Species Poached
Table 1.9 Number of Mammal species poached between October to December 2003
Species poached N0. of Species poached
Snares %Score Other %Score TotalN0. % Spp poached
Mountain Gorilla 0 00.0 0 00.0 0 00.0
Elephant 0 00.0 0 00.0 0 00.0
Buffalo 0 00.0 2 28.5 2 08.3
Bushbuck 3 17.6 0 00.0 3 12.5
C.m. Kandti 2 11.7 0 00.0 2 08.3
Duiker 5 29.4 3 42.8 8 33.3
Giant forest hog 4 23.5 2 28.5 6 25.0
Hyena 0 00.0 0 00.0 0 00.0
Leopard 0 00.0 0 00.0 0 00.0
C. a.dogetti 3 17.6 0 00.0 3 12.5
Golden cat 0 00.0 0 00.0 0 00.0
Total 17 99.8 7 99.8 24 99.9
A total of 24 animals belonging to 11 Mammal species were recorded during TRA study in A1, A2 andA3 having been poached in the MGNP in period of three months (Table1.9). The duikers featured most frequently in the kill, (33.3%), followed by Giant forest hog (25.0%). Snaring was the most predominant method of poaching, and accounted for (29.4%) of the total duikers and (23.5%) Giant forest hog above all. Whereas Buffalo and C.m. Kandti accounted for (8.3%), and was among the least animals killed. Poaching using tools other than snares shows the distribution of animal that were documented killed in different blocks by poachers that used snares and those, which used dead falls traps .
More duikers (42.8%) than any other species were killed using snares compared to other tools, and that of the buffaloes formed (28.5%). It should also be noted that the results show significant differences between snare and other tools implying that larger mammals were hardly killed as victims of snares. In this case, large mammals are capable of dismantling the traps given their weight and volume. As a result some of the traps may disappear in the forest as large mammals walk over them and in most cases the poachers set traps for smaller animals.
The poaching of the wild game using instruments such as spears, bows and arrows was not recorded in the MGNP. This is probably because the target animals are scarce and the area is quite small. Similarly, in BINP and Kahuzi forest, Giant forest hogs are best trapped by use of dead falls traps (Goodall and Grooves, 1977; Butynski, 1984). According to park rangers dead fall traps used to be common when there were many Giant forest hogs. It is probable that the present scarcity of Giant forest hogs and deadfall traps is related to reduction of Giant forest hogs through poaching.
Harcourt and Fossey (1981) states that Gorillas in West Africa are killed for food and in retaliation for crop depredation, they are not considered as food nor do they raid crops in the Virungas. However, snares are capable of capturing Gorillas and possibly maim their limbs. Werike (1991) reports an adult female Gorilla in the Nyakagezi group is missing part of her limb. This part was apparently lost to snare. Also, similar cases were reported in the Kahuzi region, the Rwanda and DRC portions of the VCA where Gorilla infants were found straggled in snare (Goodall and Fossey, 1977, Vedder, 1989a). Harcourt and Fossey (1981) reported that, at the beginning of 1976, Gorillas were hunted and killed so that their heads could be sold to tourist and residents in Rwanda. The Rwanda's Parc National Des Volcans, snaring activity doubled between 1990 and 1991, and so did the number of gorillas caught in snares (Anon, 1994). Poachers killed half of the park's elephant for ivory and exterminated bush pig and yellow-backed duiker. One hyena in the MGNP had lost part of its leg, as a result of snares (Werike, 1991). Also, elephant poisoning in the past contributed too many deaths of hyenas as they scavenged on poisoned elephants (Rangers Pers. Comm.). Most hyenas which sneaked in adjacent villages were killed by the local people because of their predatory tendencies on livestock. The activities of poachers have greatly reduced large mammal population and probably led to the decline of some species. Butynski (1986) argued that poachers are responsible for the possible extirpation of Buffalo and Leopard in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
For many years, fires have been prevalent on Mt. Muhavura. Livestock grazers usually burn this place to improve grazing conditions. Often livestock grazers roast food stuffs, while looking after their cattle (Rangers, Pers. Comm.). In most cases fire gets out of control and spilt into the MGNP and burns the area. It is considered illegal by law to cause or lit fire in the protected areas (Wildlife Act Cap 200 of 2000). Although fire has been widely used as management tool in grassland and savanna ecosystems (Bell and Jachmann, 1984; Edroma, 1984, Moe et al., 1990). It's usefulness in forest ecosystem, particularly a fromontane forests is not adequately known.
Large mammals common in this area are Bushbuck, Buffalo, Elephant and Black fronted Duiker. As a result of fire several species of wildlife have been displaced from their original territories or even destroyed. The plant species such as giant Senecio, which require about 200 years to become fully grown Schaller, (1963) may be wiped out by fire.
5.4.7 Civil unrest
Civil unrest couples with influx of refugees, since 1990 there has been intermittent military activity in the Virunga Conservation Area, but the effects of such occupation, shelling, and other war disturbances have yet to be determined (Plumptre, 1997). The potential threats to mountain gorillas evolve around the loss of habitat ecosystem and hunting by human (Lee, et al,. 1988; Harcourt, 1996). At its present total world population of only 700 mountain gorillas remains critically endangered and requires concerted conservation effort for its continued existence. Conservation requires funds and local support to succeed, and gorilla tourism plays a critical role in generating both.
5.5 Challenges of Managing Mountain Gorilla Population
This leaves probably the greatest challenge to the managers, how to deal with the ever-increasing demand from the public and international tourists to view mountain gorillas without degradation of these resources. Gorilla eco- tourism is exceptionally difficult tourism to control, particularly over the long term. Consequently, adequate control over gorilla tourism is often inadequate as demonstrated by the many statements:
- From management point of view, Park staffs concerned with enforcing the regulation are inadequately remunerated. As such, they have problems making ends meet and must be on the look out for opportunities to increase their income. As exemplified with recent wave of double tracking which was blown out by the Press Media in the BINP, 2003. It was alleged that some of the staff entrusted with enforcement of law and order were involved in double tracking.
- To ensure sustained use and productivity of gorilla eco-tourism with out adverse effect on the delicate ecological balance, and gorillas themselves. The mountain gorilla is a major part of Uganda's heritage and also of high eco-tourism value to the nation. The mountain gorillas are Uganda's primary tourist attraction, making MGNP and BINP the most important destination in the Country.
- Research is needed to establish and improve strategies to confront problems, make rational decisions and predict future trends and needs to develop appropriate intervention. Wildlife-Human conflicts are the most a cute in densely populated areas surrounding the protected areas.
- Uganda's Policy on wildlife emphasizes need to change attitudes and perception of the indigenous communities towards wildlife utilization among specific target group and the Public at large.
- Most of the protected areas in Uganda have come under pressure, in part due to rapid population growth coupled with inadequate resources to manage them.
CHAPTER SIX: CONCLUSION AND CONSERVATION RECOMMENDATIONS
6.1 Conclusion and Conservation Recommendations
The protection of critically endangered mountain gorillas should take in account not only the mountain gorilla population faced with threat, but its potential as an umbrella and flagship species. As endangered species, the mountain gorillas can be used as a tool to design conservation strategy that takes in account its ecological habitat and requirements (Sanderson, et al., 2002). This way, the mountain gorillas would function as an umbrella for the protection of entire, ecologically functional biota's and management.
The current focus of tourism in the three countries lies on mountain gorillas eco-tourism. It is business, which has considerably generated revenue and publicity for Uganda. Though, this report may lack rigorous scientific data, but it presents possible recommendations to safe guard biodiversity of MGNP. Therefore, the following conservation management recommendations are desired:
6.1.2 Conservation recommendations
1. Implement current policy on revenue sharing from tourism to local communities surrounding MGNP as measure to mitigate negative attitude.
2. Allow non-timber forest resources to be harvested in a sustainably and acceptable environmental conditions through use of MoU, and other approaches.
3. Environmental Education program intensified among the local communities living in the vicinity of the park to increase awareness of the biodiversity values, and danger of setting wire snares in the park. This could translate into building public relations amongst the communities and support the park.
4. Link development benefits originating from the park efforts to MGNP, including benefits from the IGCP, as a means of improving local relations with surrounding communities.
5. Harmonies conservation policies of the three countries holding mountain gorillas to support their protection in the Virunga landscape.
6. Develop regional tourism plan for Virunga Conservation Area as vehicle for economic eco-tourism development in the region as justification for protection of critically endangered mountain gorilla populations and their habitats.
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