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Page last updated at 07:24 GMT, Friday, 3 September 2010 08:24 UK
Safeguarding chimps from snares

By Asha Tanna
Reporting for BBC News

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Asha Tanna reports on a new project to protect chimps from hunter's snares

A goat project running in two villages neighbouring the Budongo Forest Reserve in west Uganda is helping to safeguard the lives of wild chimpanzees.

Local hunters are encouraged to give up laying wire snares to catch wild game, in return for receiving goats to rear and breed.

The pilot scheme is the brainchild of the director of the Budongo Conservation Field Station (BCFS), Dr Fred Babweteera.

"It's our philosophy that rather than witch hunt people, it's better to understand why they are doing something, get down to the root cause, and address the root cause.

"In this case we discovered that people are actually hunting for not for fun, they had a desire they had a demand they wanted to meet.

"The majority of the people around here hunt for domestic consumption. But a smaller group hunt for sale - commercial purposes. There are lots of markets around where people go for buying bush meat, mainly those two reasons."

SNARES: A SPECIAL REPORT

Snare laying is one of the biggest problems conservationists face all over Africa.

The wire traps are cheap to buy and difficult to spot in the undergrowth.

In East Africa, the snares are used to catch wild game such as antelope or bush pigs.

But wild chimpanzees suffer serious limb injuries when they get caught in these traps by accident.

Many end up maimed or in worse cases, can die as a result of infection.

This alternative lifestyle has also helped the way many hunters now live.

Goat
Goats as gifts

The goats provide regular protein for their families and an income to help send their children to school.

Villagers have also been encouraged to share their goats with their neighbours to create a chain reaction.

"It took us about one year to get going," Dr Babweteera says.

"First thing we wanted to do was to build confidence among the hunters because they know that it is illegal to hunt, so they thought maybe we wanted to trick them into a group that would be arrested. So we had several meetings where we had to build confidence between both parties."

The BCFS has a veterinarian on hand to monitor the goats to make sure they remain healthy.

Dr Babweteera opted for goats instead of launching a piggery due to the swine flue epidemic.

Bush pigs carry the virus and often raid crops in the villages. He was concerned that these wild pigs would pass on the virus to domestic pigs, killing them.

Snare
Snares are difficult to spot on the ground

The project is running in the villages of Nyakafunjo and Nyabyeya and has seen a drop in number of snares being collected per month - from 240 a month to five.

It is thought that the five are remnants, as hunters lay an average of 400 snares at any one time and often forget where they place them.

Dr Babweteera says he is pleased with the results but is cautious about hailing the project an outright success: "I wouldn't be quick to pop the champagne and say this is the solution because communities differ. I think conservation should be tailor made, that you understand the community and tailor the strategy to that community."

There are 18 villages in the neighbouring area of the Budongo Forest Reserve and it is hoped that the project will be rolled out into another six within the next few years.

However, anyone caught laying snares while taking part in this scheme will be arrested and prosecuted.

The BCFS scheme receives core funding from the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, and its primate science is coordinated by the University of St Andrews, UK.

The Budongo Conservation Field Station also receives funding to support the snare removal teams from Oakland Zoo, California US.



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