This week has brought a welcome return to wet weather after a punishingly hot and dusty dry season. The rains finished early last year, by late-October. Normally the rains continue into December. The prolonged dry season created challenges for our tree planting project, with many precious seedlings drying. The arrival of rain is therefore a godsend, breathing life into the seedlings that have hung on in the scorched soil. It also means we can start preparing in good time for the new planting season in March. This season, we have 4 tree nurseries bursting with healthy tree seedlings, and the next few months promise to be very busy!
For the chimps, the return of the rains must also be a big relief after the long hot dry season. But no one likes to get wet. As is evident in these photos taken at Bulindi this morning, when it rains there's not much to do but to sit and wait it out!
In Uganda's Hoima District, ten or more groups of wild chimps cling narrowly to survival in disappearing habitat around villages (the total population is around 300 individuals). The Bulindi chimpanzees are just one of these groups.
This year we began working in three new areas to help conserve more of Hoima's imperilled chimpanzees. One of the groups in desperate circumstances are the Wagaisa chimps, whom we're just starting to get to know. These unfortunate chimps are under unimaginable pressure: virtually all their natural forest was cut down, logged for timber and converted to farmland. Their range is criss-crossed with ever-busier roads and local rivers and swamps are polluted by a 'gin' distillery which operates without regard to its environmental impact. The Wagaisa chimps seek cover in exotic eucalyptus plantations that will too be cut for fuelwood for the factory. Turning this dire situation around presents an enormous challenge, but we're determined to find solutions to help these poor chimps.
Huge thanks to Nancy Merrick and all the team at Friends of Chimps for helping us raise funds to expand the project this year.
Meet little Kasatu - the last of the 22 chimpanzees in our 'meet and greet the Bulindi chimps' series. Kasatu, meaning 'the third' in the local Runyoro language, was so-called because he was the third infant born during a baby boom in April last year. He is Jemima's first infant and she's hugely protective of him. Perhaps because Jemima herself is small, Kasatu is the smallest of the three same-aged infants. Still, he's doing well and likes to clamber around by himself, whenever Jemima lets him out of reach. Kasatu has a 'crazy old man' face which exudes character.
The penultimate chimpanzee in our 'meet & greet' series is Jemima (pronounced Yemima), the youngest mum in the Bulindi community. We first got to know her as a juvenile in 2012. In the wild, female chimps normally give birth for the first time aged 13 - 16 years old. So it came as a surprise when Jemima gave birth to infant Kasatu last year when she only 10 or perhaps 11 years old. She was still growing herself and owing to the energetic demands of motherhood, Jemima has remained small as an adult.
Jemima is the eldest daughter of Mirinda and the two females have a very close bond. Both are calm, good natured females who avoid quabbles, preferring to groom and rest quietly together with their offspring.