Introduction to ecosystems
Introduction to ecosystems

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Introduction to ecosystems

6.1 Gorillas and tourism

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda was formed in an attempt to protect the jungle in the area, one of Africa’s richest ecosystems, from human activities. Initially it was preserved in a hostile way, with local residents forcibly evicted and barred from future entry into the park. This sparked angry protest from local communities, and there were violent clashes as a result.

An integrated conservation development programme was conceived to protect the area without alienating local communities, who had been dependent on the resources available in the forests and jungle for their livelihood.

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Gorillas and tourism

DR. GLADYS KALEMA-ZIKUSOKA
The gorillas are very important. And mountain gorillas are one of our closest living relatives. We share 98.4% genetic material. And when you go out to see them, it's very therapeutic. They look into the eye. And you feel like you're connecting with a close relative. There's only over 700 gorillas left in the world.
NARRATOR
Mountain gorillas are one of the world's most endangered species, teetering on the edge of extinction for decades. Today, they survive only in the forests of Central Africa, where they have endured years of civil war, habitat loss, and poaching for bush meat.
TUGUMISIRIZE YESE
We used to see the gorillas. There were very few, but those few, people never feared killing them. They are vermin like other vermin. They were killed. They were poached. There was no problem
NARRATOR
Half of the world's remaining population of mountain gorillas is found here, in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda. But as the park lies in the heart of one of the most densely populated parts of Africa, it's continually under threat from people eager to use the forest's rich resources.
CHARITY BWIZA
The population pressure is increasing. And the population in southwestern Uganda is the highest in Uganda. And it is also said it is the highest in Africa. But the land is not increasing.
NARRATOR
To deal with this threat, the Fortress Conservation approach was adopted in Bwindi. This aimed for the total exclusion of people and their activities from the forest, enforced by armed rangers.
JAMES BYAMUKAMA
Originally the communities were allowed to access a number of resources. They would access firewood. They would get mushrooms. They would get wild meat. They would get bamboo shoots - bamboo and many hand craft products. And when it was made a national park, then these rights were removed. The removal of any of the forest's products was stopped. And this implied that the communities lost all what they would get as contribution to their livelihood. And therefore, the communities came out in rage.
CHARITY BWIZA
Communities used to set fire intentionally to the protected area. Then communities used to fight with the law enforcement. So the communities were really, really very hostile.
NARRATOR
As conservation by force wasn't working, a new approach was needed. This conflict had to be resolved. For gorillas to have a sustainable future, local people needed to be involved in their conservation rather than excluded from the forest.
JAMES BYAMUKAMA
A question had come - conserving for who? Therefore, we had to make a shift from that fortress approach to an integrated conservation and development approach and put the people into conservation.
NARRATOR
The integrated conservation and development approach works by linking wildlife conservation with the welfare of the people around the park.
MOSES MAPESA
We had to review and rethink the strategy to look into to how to make these conservation areas more relevant to the people who live close to them or who even have ancestral claims to the land. And that is how the whole notion of integrated conservation and development programmes started.
ALASTAIR MCNEILAGE
One initiative designed to reduce the conflict was also what we call the multiple use programme. The idea was to take account of the fact that, actually, some of the things that people want from the forest - small amounts of medicinal plants, weaving materials - could actually be harvested without having a major impact on the forest itself. The quantities they need may be quite small. The resources may be plants which grow quite quickly and are easily renewed. And allowing the communities to access those resources could be used as a strategy to give them something back
MAN
Wild yams help us live longer and remain resistant to diseases. That’s the main reason we like them.
WOMAN
I gather enough material to weave three baskets, and I keep one to use in the home and sell two.
MAN
When the forest was closed there were problems, but since, we’ve been able to access things we need. We’ve collaborated with the park officials and there have been no problems.
TUGUMISIRIZE YESE
Some non-government organisations, even the government, have tried to improve the nature of the people neighbouring that gorilla so that they shouldn't at any time point a finger at the gorilla.
NARRATOR
Communities were helped to develop a new livelihood activities to replace those lost from their restricted access to the park.
CHARITY BWIZA
We are finding different variances of community projects, like bee keeping and like mushroom growing. People used to go into the park to harvest wild mushroom, so we started funding individuals and groups to grow mushrooms.
TUGUMISIRIZE YESE
They give me the materials - the sterilising drums, the drier. After helping me with such, then they give me knowledge, enough knowledge to grow mushrooms.
NARRATOR
Now, conservation was actually benefiting the local communities, and their view of gorillas and the forest began to change.
TUGUMISIRIZE YESE
Do I need to go to the park to look for mushrooms to supply the hotels? The mushrooms are here.
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Contributors to this video include G. Kalema-Zikusoka, T. Yese, C. Bwiza, J. Byamukama, M. Mapesa.

The crucial point of the development programme was to involve communities in the increased tourist interest in the park and its gorilla population.

As you watch the next film, reflect on why the Bwindi Park was established, and how this affected the local population. What difference has the establishment of the park made to the ecosystems there? Consider whether the economic activities around the park make enough of a difference to the local communities around the park

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Transcript

Gorillas and tourists

ALASTAIR MCNEILAGE
At the same time, another organisation was starting up, a gorilla tourism programme trying to find ways that the forest could generate income sustainably without being harvested, without being cut down, without killing animals. So that that provided income both to pay for the management of the park itself, pay for all the salaries of the rangers and the guides and the park staff and the maintenance of the forest, but also to generate income for the local communities.
FEMALE TOURIST
It's amazing. You never see anything like this.
NARRATOR
Now, gorilla tourism is seen as the answer to conservation. It's based on the simple economic principle that there is more money to be made from tourist dollars than from selling of natural resources.
MOSES MAPESA
We stopped timber companies or timber harvesting in Bwindi, and we earn a lot more money from the great apes tourism, from the gorilla tourism, than we would ever earn from timber production.
TUGUMISIRIZE YESE
We respect the gorilla because of tourism. It's a bigger income to our country. And what's also very wonderful about the gorilla tourism beginning is that the local communities' perceptions of conservation have changed significantly because they now see the gorillas as a sustainable source of income for them.
NARRATOR
Revenue from tourism trickles down to communities via job creation and extra trade, but there is also a scheme that puts a percentage of park entrance fees directly into the hands of local people.
ENOCK TURYAGYENDA
You know, there is some little money, which normally comes in the parishes every year. We call it revenue sharing. That money comes from UWA. It is the money, which these whites normally contribute to visit to this park to help the citizens who live around the park.
GHAD KANYANGYEYO
In the beginning, everything like wildlife to me it was useless, because there was nothing I was benefiting from them. Many local people were just taking anything as if it was nothing. And then they would chop the trees down. It would kill the animals and all, but now things have changed. Everybody is now putting pressure on conservation because we are benefiting from more life. Everybody is benefiting from tourism.
NARRATOR
Any long term plan needed to be profitable and offer sustainable livelihoods to local communities. Gorilla tourism has done this with some surprising results. In 2006, a census found a total of 340 gorillas in the park, an astonishing 12% increase in the population over the preceding decade.
MOSES MAPESA
We can begin to talk about a very positive trend in the conservation of Bwindi and the gorillas specifically. We have seen a steady rise in the gorilla population, and habitat is still large enough to accommodate a few more gorilla families.
NARRATOR
But is the integrated conservation and development approach supported by the money from tourism really sustainable? Is it the answer to saving the gorillas?
ALASTAIR MCNEILAGE
What doesn't always work as well, which perhaps is a bit unrealistic, is to think that through these ICD projects, you're going to improve people's livelihoods so much. I mean, you're talking about maybe helping people to move from being very poor to poor, but they're still poor. And so just because they may be able to cultivate more crops and raise some goats doesn't mean to say that they still don't have great needs, which could still be met by getting resources from the park.
JAMES BYAMUKAMA
You cannot be in charge of the minds of the people. The needs of the people keep changing day by day. And they are quite many people around here, for example, who still feel, even if you give them alternatives or substitutes for bushmeat, who still feel that bushmeat is what they need. What do we do with them? We still have to get back into the forest to trap. So I think Fortress Conservation and integrated conservation development approaches have to be combined. And the kind of management that brings about that is what we call adaptive management. You adapt the management according to the situation.
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Join the Week 6 forum [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]   and discuss the problems faced by the Bwindi Inpenetrable National Park in conserving their population of gorillas. Are there any general conclusions that can be drawn from the gorillas that can be applied to the conservation of other species?

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