Kibale National Park is a national park in South Uganda protecting moist evergreen rain forest. It is 766 km2 (296 sq mi) in size and is located between 1,100–1,600 meters (3,600–5,200 ft) in elevation. Despite encompassing primarily moist evergreen forest, it contains a diverse array of landscapes. Kibale is one of the last remaining expanses to contain both lowland and montane forests. In East Africa, it sustains the last significant expanse of pre-montane forest.
The park was gazetted in 1932 and formally established in 1993 to protect a large area of forest previously managed as a logged Forest Reserve. The park forms a continuous forest with Queen Elizabeth National Park. This adjoining of the parks creates a 180 km (111 mi) wildlife corridor. It is an important eco-tourism and safari destination, popular for its population of habituated chimpanzees and 12 other species of primates. It is also the location of the Makerere University Biological Field Station (MUBFS).
Kibale National Park is located in the districts of Kabarole and Kamwenge, approximately 320 kilometres (200 mi), by road, west of Kampala, Uganda’s capital and largest city. Fort Portal in Kabarole District is the nearest large city to the national park. The coordinates of the park are: 00 30N, 30 24E (Latitude:0.5000; Longitude:30.4000).
Locals and the Park
Two major tribes, the Batooro and Bakiga, inhabit the area around the park. They use the park for food, fuel, and other resources with the help of the Uganda Wildlife Authority. In the last century, the population around the park has increased by sevenfold. This is speculated to be because the park directly brings in revenue for those living around it and the tourism industry creates jobs. In addition, many farmers believe that the soil is better for growing crops year round. This increase in the population has caused the area around the park to be divided and developed or turned into plantations and farmland. This fragmentation of the area outside the park has begun to affect the biodiversity inside the park.
Kibale National Forest has one of the highest diversity and concentration of primates in Africa. It is home to a large number of endangered chimpanzees, as well as the red colobus monkey (status: Threatened) and the rare L’Hoest’s monkey. The park is also home to over 325 species of birds, 4 wild fellids, 13 species of primates, a total of at least 60 other species of mammals, and over 250 tree species. The predominant ecosystem in Kibale is moist evergreen and semi-deciduous forest. Much of the forest was logged during its time as a Forest Reserve, and some exotic species of trees were planted in plantations (pines and eucalyptus). Since the national park was gazetted many of these introduced trees have been removed and logging has ended.
Chimpanzee eating figs in Kibale National Park
There are 13 species of primates in Kibale National Park. The park protects several well-studied habituated communities of Common Chimpanzee, as well as several species of Central African monkey including the Uganda Mangabey (Lophocebus ugandae), the Ugandan Red Colobus (Procolobus tephrosceles)and the L’Hoest’s Monkey. Other primates that are found in the park include the black (Colobus satanas) colobus and the blue monkey (Cercopithecus mitis). The park’s population of elephants travels between the park and Queen Elizabeth National Park. Other terrestrial mammals that are found within Kibale National Park include red and blue duikers, bushpigs, warthogs, and buffalo. The carnivores that are present include leopards, bushpigs, three species of duiker and two species of otter. In addition, lions visit the park on occasion.
Habituated Chimpanzee in Kibale National Park
Bird life is also prolific. The park boasts 325 sited species of birds, including the olive long-tailed cuckoo, Western Green tinkerbird, two species of pittas (African and Green-breasted) and the African Grey Parrot. The ground thrush (Turdus kibalensis) is endemic to Kibale National Park.
Primates are very common in Kibale National Forest. The forest has some of the highest abundances of species of primates in the area. There are many species of primates and these species persist in the less disturbed areas of the forest in their natural habitats. There are disturbances that are hindering some of these species.
Disturbance effects on primates
Many studies have been conducted to determine the effect of different disturbances on primates. Many of these studies have found that there is a decline in the amount of primates in differently disturbed regions. One study found that there was a reduction in primate number but that primate abundance was still high in the remaining forest of the southern corridor (Chapman and Lambert 2000). Some disturbances studied have been commercial logging, degraded agricultural lands, and fragmented forest. All of these studies showed that there is a wide variety of primates affected by different disturbances, and some are not affected by any. In all of the cases it shows that because of the variable effects on different species that all forms of human disturbance should be as minimal as possible, at least until further studies have been conducted to know the full effects of these disturbances.
Logging effects on primates
Logging effects have been studied specifically by a few people. Most studies find that logging seems to be having a negative effect on the species but there are some contradictions.
Chapman and Lambert (2000) found that some species of primates are found less frequently in logged areas but others were unaffected. This study helps reveal the importance of stopping logging in certain regions of Kibale National Forest. The species from the study are shown below. These species densities show the effect of logging on each separate species:
* Heavily Logged areas:
* Found in lower densities: Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes), Redtails (Cercopithecus ascanius)
* Found in mixed densities: Red colobus (Procolobus badius), Black-and-white colobus (Colobus guereza)
* Unlogged areas:
* Found in mixed densities: Red colobus (Procolobus badius), Black-and-white colobus (Colobus guereza)
Another study conducted by Chapman and his colleagues in 2000 showed that many species of primates returned and came back to their original densities in lightly logged forest but in the heavily logged forest primates species were not able to recover. This study helps support that Kibale National Forest needs to develop a light logging system different from their heavily logging system they conduct now.
Degraded agricultural lands effect on primates
Degraded lands occur when land is cleared for agriculture and then abandoned after a few years. These lands are coming back at different rates and some are showing no possibility of re-growth. The effect these lands have on primates is still slightly unknown but some studies have started weeding out answers. One study found that most species of primates were found evenly distributed throughout the entire forest, whether there was agriculture encroachment or not (Chapman and Lambert 2000).
Fragmentation effects on primates
Fragmentation happens when a forest or habitat is broken into patches by outside disturbances. A fragmentation study done by Onderdonk and Chapman in 2000 showed an overall non-generalization on primates within fragments on the edge of Kibale National Forest. The species found in the fragments highlighted by the study are shown below. These species distributions show how fragmentation is affecting each species:
* Found in almost all fragments: Black-and-white colobus (Colobus guereza), Red-tailed guenons (Cercopithecus ascanius)
* Found in some fragments: Pennant’s red colobus (Procolobus pennantii), Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes)
* Found in no fragments: Blue monkeys (Cercopithecus mitis), Gray-cheeked mangabeys (Lophocebus albigena)
Diet of primates in Kibale National Park
Different species have different diets and many of the species are folivorous. One study actually found that black-and-white colobus monkeys (Colobus guereza) eat younger leaves over older leaves (this is thought to happen because the leaves have more protein and are easier to digest) (Chapman et al. 2004).
Kibale Forest National Park
There are approximately 229 species of trees found within the moist tropical forests of the park. Some endangered timber species of trees include Cordia millenii, Entandrophragma angolense, and Lovoa swynnertonnii. The forest understory is dominated by shade-tolerant shrubs and herbs, which include Palisota schweinfurthii and Pollia condensata, in addition to ferns and broad leaf grasses.
Forestry research in the Park
Many studies have been conducted within the park to assess the factors influencing forest regeneration and forest management techniques. One such study’s results suggested that forest restoration could be achieved through preventing fires within the park and allowing natural succession to occur so that the grasslands formed due to human activity could naturally regenerate to forests. The results showed that plots within the park that had the longest history of fire exclusion had the highest species diversity of trees. Furthermore, species of trees that required animal dispersal of their seeds were far more abundant than non-animal dispersed species in the plot with the longest duration of fire exclusion.
This suggests that seed dispersing animals were also more abundant in areas where fire was excluded. Lastly, the presence of seed dispersers and animal dispersed species of trees in some grassland plots suggest that suppressing fire and allowing natural seed dispersal to occur can encourage forest regeneration. Another study evaluated the use of exotic pine and cypress tree plantations as a forest restoration technique within the park. This study showed a high level of natural regeneration of indigenous trees within pine plantations most likely due to the use of these plantations by seed dispersing animals such as redtail monkeys, chimpanzees, duikers, and bushpigs, all of which were sited or tracked within the plantations. A recent study conducted by Ireland, Cheng and Bischoff investigated the long-term impacts of logging on ant genus richness in Kibale National Park. Interestingly, the authors found evidence suggesting that invertebrate communities can recover; however Kibale National Park is at threat of becoming the epicentre of the invasive Argentine Ant (Linepithema humile)
Wild coffee project
Robusta coffee grows natively in the Kibale forest area. From 1999 to 2002 an effort was made to commercialize this coffee as a premium consumer brand, emulating and extending the success of shade grown in Central America. Revenue from the coffee production was intended to finance conservation management activities.
Initial funding for project development came from USAID. The project was implemented with funding from the Ford Foundation and $750,000 from the World Bank Global Environment Facility. The project had initial success in setting up local production standards and procedures and control infrastructure. Initially it was led by the Uganda Coffee Trade Federation, until the independent US-based non-profit Kibale Forest Foundation was created to take over the project. Sustainable annual yield was estimated at 1,500 pounds (680 kg). Organic certification was delivered by the Swedish KRAV labeling firm. It was subsequently discovered that there was no demand for the product, as the robusta variety is perceived as inferior to arabica coffee typically demanded by the premium market. Various blending schemes were turned down by coffee distributors. Project leaders estimated that $800000 in marketing expenditure would be required to create demand.