In the Budongo Forest Reserve in Uganda, fruit production by forest trees is mysteriously declining. As a result, chimps and other primates are raiding local subsistence farms. Dr. Fred Babweteera of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, along with graduate students from Makerere University, Kampala, is studying the foraging habits of primates and the fruiting cycles of fruit trees with the goal of developing new approaches to sharing resources between people and primates—and they need your help.
On this expedition you’ll have a unique opportunity to meet our closest relatives in their natural habitat. About 700 chimpanzees live in the Budongo Forest Reserve, the largest remaining tropical rainforest in East Africa. In addition, there are four other major primate species in the Budongo Forest. You’ll team up with field assistants at the Budongo Conservation Field Station to observe chimps and other primates as they forage for food in the morning and late afternoon. You’ll learn to identify local trees and work alongside researchers to monitor trees, as well as assess the phenology (timing) of their flowering and fruiting. You’ll also help assess how changes in food availability affects local bird populations by setting up mist nets and assisting in banding forest birds. Back at the research camp, you’ll help write up the data, relax, enjoy sports with members of the Reserve staff, or walk the “Royal Mile” to take in the natural beauty of the rainforest.
Susan Pollack | NOVEMBER 9, 2019 ★★★★★
"Went to learn about the chimpanzees, but got so much more"
This expedition was so much more than I could have imagined. It was my first Earthwatch expedition and my second trip to Uganda, a truly beautiful country. The rooms were adequate and very comfortable. Accommodations were provided in the latrines for those individuals uncomfortable with squatting. The whole field station was comfortable and enjoyable. Everyone ate dinner together, sometimes with other researchers staying there. The food was delicious. Each morning we would hike into the forest with a different field assistant to help them gather data about different aspects of the forest. The field assistants were so knowledgeable and friendly. I was often amazed about how much knowledge is being gleaned from the Budongo forest, information that will have value for all tropical forests. While each day’s activity was eye-opening to me, my favorites, besides the time with the chimpanzees, was the birding. Learning about the different birds in the forest, watching Patrick’s and Godfrey’s skilled hands freeing the birds from the mist nets, measuring, weighing, and banding the birds before releasing them was so interesting. Maybe also, it was the time in between each hike to collect the birds from the nets. Just sitting quietly in this beautiful forest was so calming to me.
Jennifer Coats | SEPTEMBER 30, 2019 ★★★★★
"Experience of a lifetime"
This was an incredible, once-in-a-lifetime experience. I think it's really difficult to describe what to expect during this expedition in a written briefing. The community at the field station was more than the staff and it takes a few days to have even a sense of how everything fits together between the field station management, our expedition leader, the students doing research, the field assistants (who should be called "field experts" in my opinion), and the professionals and researchers who come in to participate. But it was just that sense of community and chance to interact with experts from the local community and students from around the world that made the experience so special.
John Kokko | SEPTEMBER 29, 2019 ★★★★★
"Bodongo Forest a Complex Situation"
Bodongo Forest reserve provides a perfect opportunity to understand the complex nature of wildlife and ecosystem threats, challenges, needs for solutions, and difficulties in implementation. The expedition took us through the wide range of issues facing chimps while showing that these dangers affect humans as much as any other part of the ecosystem. Simple single-minded solutions can and often do have unintended consequences that can hurt rather than help the situation. And that ideas have to be tried and refined over time to achieve success. Truly an eye-opening and humbling experience.
Debbie Guy | AUGUST 17, 2016 ★★★★★
"Unforgettable experience doing real science and helping real people"
I will treasure my time in the Budongo Forest with my Earthwatch team and the the amazing staff and researchers there. We participated in real science while helping the local villagers and visiting researchers. It was amazing to get out of my day-to-day job and experience something completely new and different. I loved every minute of it!