This article is based on the one hour BBC Natural World documentary “Chimps of the Lost Gorge“ [Update Jan, 2015: unfortunately, video removed from Youtube.] featuring Brutus the chimpanzee and his family which were virtually trapped in the Kyambura Gorge. I hope you will also not only enjoy this beautiful documentary from Youtube, but also take note of some other lessons it teaches. The Kyambura Gorge or Kyambura Game Reserve [Wikipedia] is located in the Queen Elizabeth National Park:
It is home to a variety of wildlife, including the only primates in the Queen Elizabeth National Park. The area is an important water source for many animals and is surrounded by savanna, but is generally noted for its high concentration of primate life located in the gorge.
The video documentary is exciting on one side as it shows you something out of the life of these beautiful animals, their challenges and their struggles, both short and long term. Another reason though is contained in this statement from the BBC Natural World site:
For the chimps, this gorge is their refuge as well as their prison. Surrounded by savannah on either side and a marsh and human settlement at each end, there is little chance of escape. Heading through the banana plantations would lead to certain conflict with humans, but to escape across the savannah they must risk encounters with predators such as lions and leopards.
On this site, we have discussed the negative impact of the extremely high population growth Uganda is having on the environment in different articles, such as on the repeated and fatal mudslides in Bududa in the east and other effects in other areas. Uganda has one of the very highest population growth rates in the world of between 3.2 & 3.4% per annum, leading according to different statistics to between 6.7 – 7 kids/woman! Whereas this also has other significant effects like the persistently low and uneven increase in average incomes in the last 20 years in spite of the country having respectable levels of economic growth in this period, which in other places would have led to a noticeable increase in average income, it is seriously affecting the environment, because of more and more land with natural vegetation cover being taken over and this being used for farming, settlement and other forms of human activity. In the case of the population-wise virtually saturated slopes of Mt Elgon, removal of natural forests is bad enough and has affected the natural flora and fauna, but replacing them with insufficient vegetation cover, exposes the land to the very much increased risk of fatal mudslides and other forms of soil erosion. Needless to say, lots of animals & birds that were at home in these areas have been driven away or lost for good. The article Increasing number of clashes between animals and humans across the country is an example showing a direct impact of this on animals.
In this documentary, we see the Kyambura Gorge – in the west being surrounded by land cleared for human settlement and the effects it has had on these animals.
I think ultimately, there needs to be an urgent change in the way of thinking so the population growth rate can be brought down to manageable levels. This would be good for Ugandans as it would directly impact the standard of living, something relevant in the 21 century, other issues like tribal conflicts now or in future because of communities “flowing over” onto other tribes’ lands(!), etc, but also the environment. The little of what is left of the animals and natural vegetation which contributed to Uganda being called the “Pearl of Africa” needs to immediately and jealously preserved. All other measures being taken, including creating more games reserves without reducing the TOO HIGH population growth rate are simply not good enough. The headmaster of King’s College, Budo used to say “Only the best is good enough”!
So watch the documentary, which will otherwise show you a chunk of why Uganda is the “pearl of Africa” as Winston Churchill called it* (BBC Documentary Video removed from youtube)!