A century ago, there were an estimated two million chimpanzees in Africa, but human activities like deforestation and poaching, have caused the numbers to drop to 350, 000.
July 14, 2019 was the World Chimpanzee Day and Uganda celebrated it from Hoima District under the auspices of Chimpanzee Sanctuary & Wildlife Conservation Trust whose haven is home to 49 orphaned chimpanzees.
Lead conservationist Dr Jane Goodall was credited for initiating efforts towards marking July 14, thanks to her extensive research about the primates with the closest DNA to human beings, standing at a remarkable 98.7 per cent.
This year’s theme was ‘Celebrating our closest cousin in the animal kingdom’, which has been used to amplify messages raising awareness about the vital need for worldwide participation in the protection and conservation of chimpanzee living both in the wild and in captivity.
Statistics from Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) and other agencies indicate that protected areas have played a good role in protecting the chimpanzees. However, the biggest number of the primates live outside the protected areas. They live in private and communally owned forests among other natural habitats.
Ngamba sanctuary’s acting Executive Director, Dr Joshua Rukundo, explained that deforestation forces wildlife to come to communities and destroy people’s gardens in search for what to eat.
“That increased contact is due to the destruction of the animal habitat and it has created a lot of human-wildlife conflict over the last few years,” Dr Rukundo said.
In the State of Uganda’s Forestry 2016, the Minister of Water and Environment, Mr Samuel Cheptoris said the country has been losing on average 122, 000 hectares every year, since 1990.
“The greatest loss in the country is estimated at 250, 000 hectares of forests annually, according to National Forestry Authority (NFA) for the period 2005 to 2010. On the other hand, on average, only about 7, 000 hectares of planted forests are established on a yearly basis in the last 15 years,” the environment minister noted.
He said the imbalance can partly be attributed to weak institutions, uncoordinated implementation of policies between sectors of the economy, insufficient funding and limited capacity at all levels which has undermined effectiveness and efficiency in developing and sustainably managing forestry resources in Uganda.
Chimpanzee are also under threat owing to illegal bush meat trades in countries like Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where it is a delicacy as well as illegal pet.