The Bulindi Chimpanzee and Community Project (BCCP) is a grassroots conservation project devoted to conserving 300 endangered wild chimpanzees struggling to survive in unprotected habitat in Uganda, East Africa.
This important and unique population of chimpanzees live in 10 family groups in a landscape dominated by agriculture and villages, covering an area of about 1000 km2.
The chimpanzees are under intense pressure from their human neighbours. Local people are poor and make their living from farming. Over the past two decades, the natural forests which were home to the chimpanzees were cut down to make space for planting crops to feed a growing human population.
To survive in these quickly changing circumstances, the chimpanzees were forced out of the shrinking forests to look for food in village gardens, feeding on agricultural crops. Local people in Uganda are traditionally tolerant of chimpanzees, and don’t hunt them for bushmeat. However, habitat loss has caused the relationship between farmers and chimpanzees to become ever-more competitive and hostile. As a result of these conflicts, the survival of the region’s chimpanzees is severely threatened.
BCCP was established to address this complex conservation problem and strives to improve the situation for the benefit of both people and chimpanzees!
The project carries out daily research and monitoring of the chimpanzee groups for their health and safety, and to understand how they are adjusting to this human-dominated environment. In parallel, the project helps local people to live more peacefully with the chimpanzees. It offers support in key areas to enhance local livelihoods and improve quality of life for local people. In doing so, the project increases villagers’ capacity to accommodate the chimpanzees and conserve and restore natural forest on their land.
BCCP supports thousands of local residents in over 100 villages that share their daily environment with the chimpanzees. The project implements the following suite of programs:
Tree Planting & Reforestation – BCCP raises over 1 million tree seedlings each year in our tree nurseries and supplies them to farmers to plant on their land. Planting native trees helps to restore the natural habitat for chimpanzees, while planting woodlots outside the forest provides an alternative source of wood for villagers, helping to reduce pressure on natural forest.
Alternative Livelihoods – The project supplies farmers with coffee seedlings to boost household incomes. Unlike other crops such as tobacco or sugarcane, coffee is ‘chimp friendly’ because chimps don’t eat the coffee berries and farmers don’t need to clear new gardens from the forest to plant coffee trees.
Energy Saving Stoves – The project provides local households with energy cook stoves, which require far less wood than traditional open stoves, reducing people’s need to cut trees for firewood. The stoves are also more efficient and much safer for children to use.
Safe Water – The project builds village wells (boreholes) to provide local households with clean and safe water, helping to reduce the incidence of waterborne diseases. Additionally, the wells mean that villagers no longer collect water from streams inside the forest where they risked running into chimpanzees!
Human–wildlife Conflict Mitigation – Regular dialogue with local people is essential for reducing conflicts and promoting tolerance towards the chimpanzees. The project carries out regular ‘sensitization’ meetings in villages to address people’s concerns and questions about the chimps and dispel misconceptions. We offer residents advice on the “do’s and don’ts” when encountering chimpanzees to increase safety for people and the wellbeing of the chimps!
Conservation Education – The project runs popular ‘Junior Conservation Clubs’ for children in villages where they come into frequent contact with chimpanzees. The Clubs aim to nurture better understanding about chimp behaviour and environmental issues in children, and encourage empathy towards the chimpanzees. The clubs also promote safety by discouraging behaviours that create conflicts, such as shouting and throwing stones at chimpanzees.
Schoolchild Sponsorship – BCCP sponsors school children from local households who are willing to conserve natural forest on their land. This sponsorship initiative has enabled dozens of children to complete their education, while helping families conserve 135 acres of forest that provides critical habitat for chimpanzees.
Chimpanzee Football League – We run a popular ‘Chimpanzee Football League’ for 16 local teams. We provide each village team with kits and balls and hold tournaments twice every year. The football league provides a platform for communicating information about chimpanzees and chimpanzees to young people, and brings local communities together to support their teams in the spirit of conservation!